Chinese Authorities Detain 11 Kokang Entrepreneurs During China Visit

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – October 4th 2023

Chinese Authorities Detain 11 Kokang Entrepreneurs During China Visit

In a surprising turn of events, Chinese police apprehended 11 business figures, including prominent entrepreneurs from the Kokang Autonomous Region, while they were attending a trade fair in China’s Yunnan Province. While the precise reason behind their arrest has yet to be disclosed by Chinese authorities, it’s been generally reported that they were detained for alleged violations of China’s laws. The Myanmar military embassy in Kunming, Yunnan, was informed about the arrests, and while the Chinese side has not been explicit about the charges, it is believed that the individuals are suspected of having connections with criminal groups known as “Zhà Piàn.” These groups are reportedly involved in activities such as money laundering, human trafficking, and cybercrime, which China is currently targeting through its operations against such gangs.

Recent months have seen China taking decisive actions against the “Zhà Piàn” criminal organizations, with efforts to arrest and extradite Chinese nationals located in the autonomous regions of Wa, Mongla, Kokang, and other border regions of Myanmar. The United Wa State Army (UWSA), for example, has arrested and extradited numerous individuals with suspected links to these illegal enterprises operating within its territory. This includes over 300 individuals related to these businesses situated in Laukkaing, Kokang region, who were initially involved in casino gambling but later lured into engaging in online scams. They were subsequently arrested, coerced, tortured, and even kidnapped for ransom. These illicit businesses have spread across border areas in Myanmar that have been controlled by armed groups for the past two years. These include locations such as Myawaddy Township in the Thai-Myanmar border region, Wa Region, Mongla, Kokang, and even urban areas like Yangon.

The situation has raised concerns that these businesses, engaged in online fraud and human trafficking, have found sanctuary under the protection of armed groups and are linked to criminal networks in China. The Chinese government is now leveraging its influence and authority to crack down on its own nationals involved in money laundering gangs in Myanmar and diplomatically pressuring neighboring countries to take a stand against such illicit operations within their territories.

The arrest of the 11 Kokang entrepreneurs serves as a stark warning, not only to other business figures in the region but also to local governments. China’s regional dominance has enabled it to take stringent actions against Chinese citizens affiliated with “Zhà Piàn” activities, effectively coercing regional countries to follow suit in addressing this issue. The news that Myanmar’s military council has raised objections via the Chinese Embassy stems from a recent Chinese film release titled “No More Bets,” which deals with online money scams and human trafficking, casting a shadow over Myanmar’s reputation.

In another news development, an urban guerrilla group claimed responsibility for the assassination of 35-year-old Nyan Lwin Aung, the owner of a company that procures military weaponry and technical equipment for the military council. The attack occurred while he was dining at a roadside eatery in Yangon. This group had previously claimed responsibility for assassinating the owner of a private legal services firm, Min Tayza Nyunt Tin, a retired army major, and an officer from a private security company currently contracted by Yangon Airport.

Notably, the National Unity Government and other political leadership organizations have not issued specific statements regarding the assassinations of individuals connected to the military council’s administration or mechanisms, army-owned businesses, private enterprises of generals, personnel involved in the military council’s propaganda apparatus, suspected informers, or individuals previously reported. This raises questions about the definitions of military targets, civilians, and armed members, as well as the policies, stances, and actions pertaining to the assassinations of individuals accused of being informers and members of Pyu Saw Htee. These concerns span not only urban areas but also villages, emphasizing the need for a clearer and more comprehensive policy regarding assassinations, both in terms of political intentions and consequences.