Chinese Children Trapped in Myanmar Scam Centers: Report
Myanmar, once a popular destination for Chinese tourists, has seen its reputation plummet in China amid reports that children are trapped working for cyberscam syndicates in the northern part of the country.
On Tuesday, a news clip from a news station in eastern Fujian province jumped to the top of social media discussions. In the clip, it was reported that at least 11 Chinese minors have apparently been tricked into joining scam companies in Myanmar since March.
In the clip, which has been reposted widely, including by the official account of the Ministry of Public Security on microblogging platform Weibo, worried parents say they have found it difficult to communicate with their children, with screenshots of messages suggesting that their children are under tight control.
“My child told me not to call the police. If we did, they would be in trouble,” a family member said in the news clip.
Two of the children are reportedly aged 15 and 16 years old. The ages of the others are not specified.
The children were reportedly brought to Myanmar by middlemen who earned 20,000 yuan ($2,742) for each child trafficked.
“We may not be able to make it home,” one of the children wrote to their parents.
The problem of cyberscam syndicates targeting Chinese citizens in northern Myanmar has reemerged as a hot topic in recent weeks. A domestic film about such syndicates, “No More Bets,” has fetched $2.9 billion at the box office.
In these scam centers, victims are often subject to intense violence and abuse, according to Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper.
The recent controversies surrounding Myanmar have damaged the country’s reputation as a destination for Chinese tourists. Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists accounted for more than 36% of all inbound tourists to the Southeast Asian country.
On travel booking website Trip.com, only one Chinese travel agency still offers package holidays to Myanmar. However, a staff member at Yunnan International Travel Service told Sixth Tone on Tuesday that she would not personally recommend going.
“Only a few people are willing to go to Myanmar nowadays,” she said. “We are afraid of sending tourists there now as well.”
Online, criticisms of Myanmar and its perceived lawlessness have proliferated. After a Myanmar minister gave an interview with Chinese media on Tuesday, several influencers on Weibo attacked the minister for downplaying the scale of the problem.
On Friday, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar announced a joint operation with authorities in Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar to combat gambling and fraud syndicates.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: VCG)