KNU ‘ready to work with China, Bangkok’ to rid Thai border of crime

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

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 paid a call on junta boss 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.

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.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee said: “If we are to fight notorious illegal activities, drug and human trafficking, online gambling and online fraud at the border, those activities stem from the military council,” referring to the State Administration Council, the junta’s governing body.

The KNU has been under pressure over its alleged involvement in KK Park. Padoh Saw Roger Khin, the head of the KNU’s Defense 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. It is a joint venture between the Myanmar military-affiliated Karen State Border Guard Force, led by Colonel Saw Chit Thu, and Yatai International Holding Group. In 2017, Saw Chit Thu formed a joint venture with Yatai, owned by She Zhijiang, a Chinese national who is a fugitive in his country of birth but also holds a Cambodian passport after investing in casinos there. Thai authorities arrested the billionaire fugitive tycoon, also known as Dylan She, in August 2022 for running illegal online gambling platforms, but Yatai said the arrest would not affect its business operations.

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