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Over 100 scam gang suspects arrested in Myanmar

Junta troops arrested over 100 people while raiding a casino on the Thai-Myanmar border, locals said on Friday. 

The compound was the site of an online gambling den in Myanmar’s Tachileik city in eastern Shan state. 

The region comprising northern Thailand, eastern Myanmar and southern Laos is known as the Golden Triangle, notorious for gambling, trafficking and fraud.

A resident declining to be named for safety reasons told Radio Free Asia that the 1G1-7 Hotel in Tachileik’s San Sai Kha neighborhood, where the casino crackdown occurred, is a long-standing institution in the city.

“The raid and arrests at the casino, which was opened behind the 1G1-7 Hotel, has been open for about a decade as a casino,” he said. “It was raided and people were arrested in the morning.”

Junta soldiers and police arrested Myanmar, Thai and Chinese nationals, locals said. They are currently in custody, but no further details about their location or identity are known. 

Troops and police gather outside the 1G1-7 Hotel in Tachileik city on Feb. 23, 2024 (Telegram: People Media)

Another Tachileik resident said there are hundreds of online gambling businesses in the 11 neighborhoods of the city and in its surrounding villages. Many operate in homes and hotels, he said. 

“Houses are entirely rented, and the hotels were rented out by floors for operating [online casinos],” he said. “Chinese and Thai nationals are also involved.”

Online money scamming gangs often disguise their operations as casinos, locals said. In 2023, more than 40,000 Chinese nationals were deported from Shan state for staying illegally in Myanmar and working in illegal businesses and scam centers.

This is the first time police have cracked down on scam centers in Tachileik, locals said. 

The junta has not officially released any information on Friday’s arrests. RFA reached out to Shan state’s junta spokesperson Khun Thein Maung, but he did not respond by the time of publication. 

However, pro-military channels on the social messaging app Telegram shared that the people arrested in Tachileik were committing online fraud as part of an organization known as “Kyar Pyant.” It reported the Chinese gang, which specializes in online fraud, was raided by junta security forces.

State-owned newspapers reported on Feb. 9 that more than 50,000 foreigners, mostly made up of Chinese nationals, were transferred back to their respective countries for illegally staying in Myanmar from Oct. 5, 2023 to Feb. 8, 2024.

Some 48,803 Chinese, 1,071 Vietnamese, 537 Thai, 133 Malaysian, 20 Korean, and 18 Lao nationals were transferred, the statement said. 

In November, 19 South Koreans were rescued by junta forces after being forced to work in Tachileik in an illegal business. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.