Hundreds of Thais who were scammed into travelling to Myanmar, enticed by offers of well-paid work, have been rescued. They were being forced to work for Chinese criminals running online scams inside Myanmar, apparently in plain sight of the Burmese Junta.
The victims have now arrived back in Thailand, but it wasn’t a straightforward evacuation, with ongoing fighting in Myanmar hampering efforts for a time. According to a Thai PBS World report, a total of 266 Thais were flown to Bangkok at around 3am this morning.
The repatriation mission was organised by the Thai embassy in Yangon and the Thai consular office in Kunming, with cooperation from the Burmese and Chinese governments. Those being evacuated crossed the border into China from the Burmese township of Laukkai.
The rescued Thais, along with 6 Filipinos and one Singaporean national, were flown from Kunming in China to Don Mueang Airport, on flights chartered by the Foreign Ministry and operated by AirAsia and Lion Air.
On arrival in Bangkok, they were taken to a screening centre run by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to undergo background checks, which would separate human trafficking victims from those suspected of cross-border criminal activity.
National police chief Torsak Sukvimol says those found to have been trafficked will be offered assistance, whereas those suspected of criminal activity will face legal proceedings. In the case of the 6 Filipinos and one Singaporean, their embassies have been informed and will take responsibility for them.
According to the report, Laukkai, in Myanmar’s Shan State, is known as the centre of online scam operations run by Chinese criminals. The operations include online fraud and romance scams, targeting people in China and Thailand. The Chinese government is now cracking down on such operations and has requested the Burmese authorities to do the same.
SOURCE: Thai PBS World