China issues warning after jobseekers kidnapped, forced into prostitution in Myanmar

Keegan Elmer
·3-min read

China has warned people of the dangers of travelling to northern Myanmar for work citing police reports of jobseekers being lured to the Southeast Asian country on the offer of lucrative employment only to end up being kidnapped or forced into prostitution.

Many Chinese citizens had been hoodwinked by recruitment advertisements into thinking they were going to Myanmar to work for legitimate companies, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday. But on their arrival they were “forced to engage in illegal and criminal activities such as telecom fraud and gambling”.

Those who failed to comply with the demands of their so-called employers found themselves being severely punished, it said.

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“[China’s] public security organs have received reports of many criminal cases of Chinese citizens being fooled into going to the northern region of Myanmar and then being kidnapped, illegally detained, extorted and forced into prostitution,” the statement said.

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As a result, “the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security remind Chinese citizens to be vigilant, go out to work [only] through formal and legal labour agencies, and not trust recruitment information”, it said.

Northern Myanmar, especially towns like Laukkai, the capital of Kokang in Shan state, has become a hotbed for casinos, online fraud operations and prostitution, much of it targeted at Chinese locals and visitors.

Kokang is home to a large community of Chinese who have adopted Myanmar citizenship. Mandarin is widely spoken in the region, Chinese mobile services are available there and even the currency, the yuan, is commonly used.

The long land border between China and Myanmar also makes it easy for Chinese to cross over illegally in search of work or entertainment.

Last week, Chinese media reported the case of a Chinese businessman who was kidnapped by his countrymen in northern Myanmar in August.

The man, who was not named, entered the country legally in January but became stuck there when the border was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, he opened a shop selling phones in the north of the country in partnership with a number of Chinese partners. However, his associates subsequently kidnapped him and released him only after being paid a ransom of several hundred thousand yuan by the victim’s family back home in China.

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In September, police in Myanmar arrested a group of nine Chinese citizens suspected of being involved in multiple kidnappings and extortion.

In one case, the manager of a mining company in the northern town of Panghsang, which borders southwest China’s Yunnan province, was kidnapped in June, police said. He was freed after the gang was paid a ransom of 100,000 yuan (US$14,800).

China is Myanmar’s biggest trading partner and one of its largest sources of investment. The port of Ruili in northern Myanmar, handled almost half of the country’s US$10.3 billion in border trade last year, according to figures from the Myanmar government.

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