11 July 2024

Myanmar’s oldest ethnic armed organization, the Karen National Union (KNU), said it is ready to cooperate with neighboring Thailand and China to combat “notorious and rampant” crime, including online scam operations, along the Myanmar-Thai border, according to the Irrawaddy news website.

In his New Year’s message to the people, KNU spokesman Padoh Saw Taw Nee said: “If we are to fight illegal activities and crimes that are rampant along the border… I would like to request especially China and Thailand… to effectively combat those crimes, we heartily welcome… and we are ready to cooperate especially with these two countries to fight illegal activities.”

Thailand and China will receive a positive response if they consult with the KNU in a friendly manner on combating such crimes, the KNU spokesman said.

There are concerns that online scam syndicates run by Chinese citizens will relocate to the Thai-Myanmar border amid a crackdown on online criminal gangs in Laukkai in northern Shan State near the border with China.

Last week, Royal Thai Army Joint Operations Director Lieutenant General Jakkapong Janpengpen called on Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw to discuss cooperation in fighting online gambling and scam operations, especially those based in and around Myawaddy on the Myanmar-Thai border, according to the Irrawaddy.

A Chinese-invested “new city” project known as KK Park is located to the south of the border town in Karen State across the Moei River from Thailand near the village of Maw Hto Talay.

The Irrawaddy said the KNU has been under pressure over its alleged involvement in KK Park. Padoh Saw Roger Khin, the head of the KNU’s Defence Department and a member of its Central Executive Committee, attended the groundbreaking ceremony for KK Park in February 2020. The development has become a hub of human trafficking and online scams in Southeast Asia since the 2021 coup.

Another new city project, Shwe Kokko, located just north of Karen State’s Mae Sot, is a notorious hub for online gambling, cyber scams and human trafficking.