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China Evacuates Hundreds from Myanmar’s Scam Centers in Ongoing Crackdown

In a significant development, hundreds of individuals employed in Myanmar’s infamous scam centers have departed on evacuation flights arranged by China, marking Beijing’s latest success in its ongoing battle against these centers, which are believed to harbor hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims.

China has been intensifying pressure on both Myanmar’s military government and armed groups to close down these centers, as funds from these establishments have been channelled into criminal activities and Myanmar’s civil war. Last year, victories by ethnic insurgents along Myanmar’s border with China resulted in the closure of some of the most notorious scam centers, leading to the repatriation of thousands, including Chinese victims of human trafficking.

The recent group of individuals was discovered in a southern area controlled by ethnic Karen insurgents, both aligned with and opposed to Myanmar’s military rulers who seized power in a coup in February 2021.

The repatriation flights, originating from the town of Mae Sot on the Thai border, carried approximately 150 people each and are part of a series that aims to transport up to 1,000 people to China, according to DW news agency.

Estimates from the United Nations last year suggested that up to 120,000 individuals had been trafficked into centers in Myanmar, with an additional 100,000 in Cambodia. Victims are often enticed by misleading advertisements promising easy work and extravagant benefits, only to find themselves trapped and compelled to work in online scam centers. Non-compliance often leads to threats and violence, with many subjected to torture and inhumane treatment.

These scam centers have generated substantial revenues for Chinese underworld crime syndicates and various armed groups operating along the Thai border. Recent crackdowns have resulted in the closure of numerous centers, with Myanmar’s Ministry of Public Security reporting that around 44,000 individuals suspected of involvement in scam centers have been handed over to the Chinese government. Notably, three Chinese warlords, notorious for trafficking thousands of foreign workers to run scams, were sent to Beijing in January as part of the crackdown.

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