The Three Brotherhood Alliance who gained control of Laukkaing, Myanmar have turned over three Chinese warlords to Beijing. The warlords are known for trafficking thousands of foreign nationals to operate phone and online scams.
Three Brotherhood Alliance handed over Bai Suocheng, Wei Chaoren, and Liu Zhengxiang leaders of three of four families that dominated Laukkaing, on Myanmar’s north-eastern border with China. They travelled to China on a chartered flight with seven other people.
This is the latest twist in the astonishing collapse of Myanmar’s military-backed Chinese gangs. It’s also another blow to Myanmar’s military leadership, whose power is dwindling throughout the country.
Myanmar’s army, which had been in a grinding stalemate since gaining power in early 2021, is now losing ground as it fights well-organized ethnic groups on multiple fronts.
General Min Aung Hlaing is known to have backed the Chinese mafia in Laukkaing. For years, China has pressed his dictatorship to close the scam centres, where people are trapped and forced to run phone and online frauds against victims all over the world.
China’s concern over what was happening across its border prompted three guerrilla armies to launch coordinated attacks against the military in late October last year, hastening the fall of the mafia groups.
In 2009, the four families acquired ownership of Laukkaing. Liu Guoxi, leader of the fourth family, died in 2020.
Laukkaing Myanmar Hotbed of Criminal Activity
Over the years, their control transformed a poor Myanmar border town into a hotbed of criminal activities, particularly profitable scam centres. According to the UN, hundreds of thousands of people have been trafficked into these camps throughout Southeast Asia.
“For a long time, multiple criminal groups… in northern Myanmar have openly organised armed fraud gangs and carried out fraud crimes against Chinese citizens,” China’s Ministry of Public Security stated on Tuesday.
The ministry also accused them of “multiple and severe violent crimes,” including murder, assault, and illegal imprisonment.
In December, Beijing announced a public reward for these men and others in their network, designating them as “ring leaders,” and dispatched a team to Myanmar to collaborate with local police.
Laukkaing, formerly an impoverished border town, evolved into a boisterous hotspot for gambling, narcotics, and scam centres. A vulnerable Myanmar army gave China the opportunity to crack down on the scam compounds in Laukkaing.
So far, China has repatriated over approximately 44,000 people accused of being involved in the fraud centres in Myanmar, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
However, China described Tuesday’s event as a “landmark achievement” because it involved the arrest of three mafia family heads.
China Cracking Down on Organized Crime
Chinese-language TV footage shows hundreds of Swat (Special Weapons and Tactics Unit) officers bringing suspects down a plane in Kunming and into police vans.
With their tight ties to the military, the Godfather-esque “four families” of Laukkaing established huge economic networks throughout Myanmar, with investments in mining, energy, infrastructure, and casinos in other countries such as Cambodia.
They made connections with organised crime networks in Macao and south-east China.
Under their rule, the isolated, impoverished backwater of Laukkaing was converted into a boisterous gambling city complete with showy high-rise towers and sleazy red-light districts.
Originally created to capitalise on Chinese appetite for gambling, which is prohibited in China and many other nearby countries, Laukkaing’s casinos turned into a lucrative front for money laundering, trafficking, and, most notably, dozens of fraud centres.
Over 100,000 foreign people, many of whom were Chinese, were believed to have been enticed to these scam centres, where they were effectively imprisoned and forced to work long hours conducting sophisticated online fraud operations against victims all over the world.
Laukkaing assumed the persona of a Wild West boom town, where everything goes and everything can be purchased and sold. There were periodic gunfights between rival fraud centres, and wealthy individuals kept lions and tigers as pets.