MYANMAR: Ming Xuechang (明学昌), the Kokang tycoon, passed away on Wednesday (15 Nov) while in police custody following his arrest for alleged involvement in online money laundering.
The Chinese and Myanmar authorities had issued warrants for 69-year-old Ming and his associates, including his son Ming Guoping(明国平) and grandson Ming Zhenzhen (明珍珍).
The arrest took place in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone situated in northern Shan state along the Myanmar-China border.
The Ming family is purported to be the owners of the infamous Crouching Tiger villa (卧虎山庄), reportedly a central hub for conducting illicit scams and engaging in human trafficking that specifically targets Chinese victims, as per Chinese media reports.
Prior to his death, Ming was a former member of Myanmar’s pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), as reported by Myanmar state media.
On 12 November, Beijing issued arrest warrants for the four for allegedly helping to orchestrate online scam rings in Myanmar staffed by human trafficking victims.
Arrest warrants were issued on 12 Nov
Beijing had previously issued arrest warrants for Ming Xuechang and his associates on November 12, accusing them of orchestrating telecom scam rings in Myanmar.
The Chinese government has put up bounties ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 yuan (approximately US$13,700 to $68,600) for information leading to the apprehension of four wanted individuals.
These warrants come with a stern warning of prosecution for anyone found aiding their escape from arrest.
Among those sought by the Chinese authorities is Ming Xuechang’s 42-year-old son, Ming Guoping, a leader within the Kokang Border Guard Force (BGF), operating under Myanmar military command.
Also targeted are Ming Xuechang’s daughter, Ming Julan(明菊兰), aged 42, and granddaughter, Ming Zhenzhen, aged 27, for their alleged involvement in crimes within the Kokang region adjacent to China.
Ming’s family members handed over to Chinese police on Thursday
Collaborating with relevant Myanmar authorities, Ming Guoping, Ming Julan, and Ming Zhenzhen were apprehended and handed over to Chinese police on Thursday.
Ming Xuechang, fearing repercussions as Myanmar authorities closed in on him, took his own life on Wednesday night.
Reports indicated that during his apprehension, he sustained injuries from what local media described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound using his own pistol. He later succumbed to these injuries while receiving medical treatment in the hospital.
According to Myanmar Now, the situation has placed immense pressure on junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who, as the head of Myanmar’s military, holds sway over the USDP and wields final authority over the actions of BGF commanders.
This development unfolds six weeks after China apprehended Maung Maung, another Kokang lawmaker elected as a USDP candidate in 2020. Simultaneously, Ming Xuechang’s son-in-law, the spouse of Ming Julan, faced detention during the same period.
Ming Xuechang, also recognized as Myin Shaw Chang or Myin Shwe Chang, secured the election in 2010 to represent Laukkai Township’s Constituency (2) in the Shan State assembly.
During that time, he was esteemed as the right-hand confidant of Pei Xiaochen, commander of the Kokang BGF, formed in December 2009.
This armed group has aligned with Myanmar’s military in combat against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Kokang faction currently engaging in a significant offensive against the regime in northern Shan State.
Upon retiring from politics, Ming Xuechang positioned his son, Ming Guoping, in a prominent role within the BGF.
Another son, Ming Ko’an (or Min Ko An), serves as a sub-inspector in Kokang under the regime’s ministry of home affairs and is reportedly being pursued by Chinese authorities.
Alleged killing of Chinese undercover agents in Myanmar amid rescue attempt for human trafficking victims
While China has persistently urged Min Aung Hlaing to address concerns regarding illicit activities in Myanmar’s border areas, Chinese news sources imply that an incident on October 20 might have tested Beijing’s patience to its limits.
Reports from Chinese news outlets indicate that on that day, several Chinese undercover agents posing as victims of human trafficking were allegedly killed while investigating cyber crimes attributed to groups based in Kokang territory.
According to a Chinese report, on October 20th, the Ming family attempted to relocate the human trafficking victims from the Crouching Tiger villa to another location.
Chinese undercover agents organized an escape for the victims, but they were eventually discovered by henchmen of the Ming family.
Upon being discovered, the four undercover agents revealed their identities, but the Ming family opened fire and killed over seventy Chinese citizens who were preparing to flee, effectively silencing them.
The situation deeply unsettled the authorities in Yunnan, China. On November 21st, the Foreign Affairs Office of the Lincang Municipal Government in Yunnan dispatched a formal letter to the authorities of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, urging a comprehensive investigation into the incident.
The letter also demanded Ming Xuechang to provide a clear and definitive response, disclosing the factual truth of the matter.
Regrettably, they did not receive any response or acknowledgement from the counterpart authorities in Kokang.
A news source associated with the military junta subsequently verified the death of at least one Chinese government agent in Laukkai, in addition to several other Chinese nationals.
Simultaneously, it was during this period that the Chinese government urged the Myanmar regime to conduct an investigation into Ming Xuechang.