Myanmar junta boss in talks with Thai military chief

Myanmar junta boss Min Aung Hlaing and Thailand’s armed forces chief General Songwit Noonpackdee on Friday reportedly discussed online gambling and telecom fraud, especially in Myawaddy on the Thai border, The Irrawaddy reports.

A junta website said the online meeting was also attended by Thailand’s Air Chief Marshal Chakorn Tawanjang and Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo of Myanmar’s Office of the Commander-in-Chief.

They discussed crackdowns on drugs, illegal trade and cooperation to ensure border peace and stability, the office’s website said.

The prevention of forest fires, cross-border haze and air pollution and bilateral cooperation between the armed forces in many sectors were discussed, it added.

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

On December 27, the Thai Joint Operations Director Lieutenant General Jakkapong Janpengpen visited Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw to discuss cooperation in fighting online gambling and scam operations, especially in Myawaddy Township, Karen State.

KK Park is a new city being built with Chinese investment south of the border town across the Moei River from Thailand near the village of Maw Hto Talay.

The Karen National Union (KNU) said it is ready to cooperate with China and Thailand to combat “notorious and rampant” crime, including online scam operations, along the Thai border.

“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,” KNU spokesman Padoh Saw Taw Nee said in his New Year’s message.

The KNU has faced pressure over its alleged involvement in KK Park. Padoh Saw Roger Khin, the KNU’s defense chief, attended the groundbreaking ceremony for KK Park in February 2020. The development has become a hub for human trafficking and online scams since the 2021 coup.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee recently told The Irrawaddy that the group is investigating the alleged involvement of a few members of its members at KK Park.

Another new city project, Shwe Kokko, to the north of Myawaddy, is a hub for online gambling, cyber scams and human trafficking.

It is a joint venture between the military-affiliated Karen State Border Guard Force, led by Colonel Saw Chit Thu, and the Yatai International Holding Group.

In 2017, Saw Chit Thu formed a joint venture with Yatai, owned by She Zhijiang, who fled her native China and holds a Cambodian passport after investing in casinos in the country.

The 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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