MALAYSIA: Scam syndicates have devised new tactics to entice their potential victims to their fraudulent compounds at the Myanmar-Thai border.
Apart from offering substantial compensation for a three-day smuggling operation in Thailand, scammers go as far as covering the cost of the flight ticket, arranging accommodation, and even making promises of introducing a girlfriend to their unsuspecting targets.
The China Press, a Malaysian Chinese media outlet, reported that a 34-year-old Malaysian, Mr. Lim, narrowly avoided a potentially harrowing experience when he almost boarded a flight on Saturday that could have led him into the clutches of malicious scam syndicates.
Victims in such places are often subjected to forced labour, coerced into engaging in illicit scams and subjected to torture for non-cooperation or failure to meet targets.
Online job ad offers US$3,168 for smuggling endangered animal products to Thailand in one trip
Mr Lim revealed that he had come across an advertisement on Facebook last week. The advertisement promised a payment of RM 15,000 (approximately US$3,168) for smuggling ivory products and tiger penises to Thailand in a single trip.
With an unstable income from working as a masseuse in Malacca, Mr. Lim found himself strongly drawn to this get-rich-quick scheme.
Upon contacting the ‘agent’ via WhatsApp, Mr Lim was fervently introduced to the job’s scope, which involved smuggling tiger penises, ivory, and rhino horn products to Thailand.
He was instructed to make 2 to 4 trips to Bangkok every month, each lasting 3 days.
According to Mr Lim, the “agent” treated him with great enthusiasm. Not only did they handle the arrangements for accommodation and plane tickets, but they also presented him with valuable animal products as keepsakes.
The “agent” recommended that he travel light, as they would handle his luggage and provide Thai baht as pocket money.
Additionally, the “agent” inquired, “Are you married?” and offered to introduce Thai women as potential girlfriends.
Red flags raised as Mr Lim discovers Mae Sot workplace details
He mentioned that the scheduled flight was planned to depart from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok at 5:45 pm on Saturday (14th October) afternoon.
However, he received information at 2:33 p.m. on the same day that the facility to process smuggled items was located in Mae Sot, Thailand.
Aware of news reports of Mae Sot as a notorious hotspot for preying scam syndicates and subsequent transportation to Myanmar, he grew increasingly suspicious.
Multiple news reports revealed that victims were taken to a scam compound situated in Myawaddy, Myanmar, just across the river from Mae Sot.
Subsequently, Mr Lim conducted an online search for information related to ‘piglets’ (“猪仔”, a colloquial term for human trafficking victims) and stumbled upon references to Victor Wong, a renowned Malaysian entrepreneur operating in Thailand, better known as “Thai’s Dragon (泰国过江龙)” on social media.
Mr Lim messaged Mr Wong seeking advice about the trip. In response, Mr Wong strongly advised him against proceeding with the suspicious journey.
“I then firmly decided not to board the plane,” Mr Lim conveyed to the media.
Criminal syndicates using job offers as bait for unwary travellers
Separately, In an interview with the press, Mr Wong warned that criminal groups might exploit the guise of job opportunities in smuggling to lure adventurous young individuals into travelling to Mae Sot, Thailand.
Upon arrival, these individuals could potentially face abduction and be sold to camps in Myanmar. Within a span of just two weeks, there have already been two reported cases.
Additionally, Mr. Wong highlighted that this deceptive practice has recently gained popularity. These groups typically claim to operate factories in remote areas like Mae Sot, Chiang Mai, and Phuket in Thailand. They entice their targets to visit these locations under the pretext of inspecting products.
He emphasized that once the targets reach these areas, their chances of escape are minimal, especially once they reach the border, and they often end up being sold to fraudulent compounds in Myanmar.
Additionally, Mr Wong provided personal assistance to Mr Lim in reporting the incident to local authorities, furnishing investigators with crucial information to facilitate the ongoing investigation.
Another Malaysian narrowly escapes human trafficking scheme in Myanmar after falling for US$3,600 ‘ivory smuggling’ offer
Last week, another report surfaced, revealing that a 27-year-old Malaysian Chinese had also fallen for a tempting offer of US$3,600 to partake in ivory smuggling activities at the Thai-Myanmar border.
Upon his arrival in Chiang Rai by flight, the young man, known as Ah Liang, was enticed to Mae Sai, a town situated near the Thai-Myanmar border.
Following this, he was transported to Tachileik, a city in Myanmar located just across the river from Mae Sai in Thailand, after changing vehicles twice. It was during this leg of the journey that Ah Liang began to sense that something was amiss, especially when two men in military attire became his final escorts.
In a brave attempt to free himself, Ah Liang leapt from a moving vehicle, enduring injuries as he sought refuge in the jungle to evade his pursuers.
His gruelling experience lasted for two days and two nights as he navigated challenging terrain, ultimately managing to cross the Myanmar-Thailand border.
Finally, he surrendered to local immigration authorities, putting an end to his nightmarish journey.
UN Policy Report highlights transnational crime gangs establishing remote bases in Myanmar
Last month, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has shed light on the alarming presence of organized crime gangs operating in the border areas of Myanmar, adjacent to China.
These remote locations, often inaccessible to law enforcement, serve as operational hubs for criminal syndicates perpetrating online scams, leaving trafficking victims with scant chances of escape.
In Myanmar, a significant hub for criminal activities has flourished in the Myawaddy region, situated just across a small river from the western Thai border town of Mae Sot.
Another network of compounds stretches along Myanmar’s eastern border with China, extending northward through Shan State, passing through the special administrative area of Wa State, and reaching Kokang, which shares a border with China’s Yunnan province.
Southeast Asian nations, in collaboration with the UNODC, have launched a strategy plan aimed at tackling organized crime and human trafficking in the region.
The new plan aims to strengthen preventative measures and enhance the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to combat international organized crime and human trafficking on a regional scale.
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