在移交的 31000 名疑犯中，據稱有組織頭目骨幹63名、網上在逃人員1531名。近期緬北爆發民族衝突和戰爭後，共有2萬至3萬華人返回中國。
Cross-border telecom fraud and ethnic Kokang politics in Northern Myanmar
On November 21, 2023, the government authorities in Northern Myanmar returned 31,000 ethnic Chinese, who were suspected of being involved in orchestrating and participating in cross-border telecommunication fraud, to the officers of criminal investigation bureau under the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – an event that marked the largest number of alleged suspects being extradited from Myanmar to China perhaps in the history of the combat against cross-border crime.
Among the 31,000 returned suspects, there were allegedly sixty-three syndicate organizers and 1,531 persons who were under the arrest warrants. After the recent outbreak of ethnic conflicts and war in Northern Myanmar, a total of 20,000 to 30,000 ethnic Chinese returned to the PRC.
In early November 2023, the PRC government officially announced that arrest warrants were issued to four allegedly masterminds of the telecom fraud, including Myin Shaw Chang (Ming Xuechang in Chinese), Ming Guoping, Ming Julan and Ming Zhenzhen. Ming Xuechang committed suicide on November 16th for fear of being punished by the Chinese authorities. It was reported in a mainland website that after the arrest warrants were issued, the Ming family, including Mye’s son Ming Guoping (a man also named Ming Xiaoping born in Myanmar and a village militia captain in Shan state and Kokang special economic zone), daughter Ming Julan (born in Yunan in 1981), and granddaughter Ming Zhenzhen (born in Yunan in 1996), had an intense discussion. According to the mainland Chinese news, Ming Xuechang called a military general in Myanmar for help, saying that he had already paid the latter a huge sum of money. However, the general replied that due to the fact that on October 20th, the Ming clique, which was one of the five cliques that engaged in telecom fraud cheating many mainland Chinese to work for cybercrime groups in Northern Myanmar, killed a group of 60 Chinese nationals who attempted to escape from a telecom scam base in Crouching Tiger Compound under the control of Ming Xuechang. Among the killed Chinese nationals, there were four undercover police agents from the PRC. As such, the PRC side exerted pressure on the Myanmar government to deal with the telecom fraud syndicates effectively. The military general whom Ming Xuechang contacted for assistance, according to the mainland news reports, criticized Ming and his associates for creating a huge trouble. Ming and his family members were arranged to get on a plane, but before Ming went on board, he was “told” to “commit suicide” so that his family members would be safe and handed back to the PRC side. On November 16th, Ming Guoping, Ming Julan and Ming Zhenzhen were arrested by the Myanmar authorities and they were extradited back to the mainland police side.
It must be noted that the Ming syndicate was only the fifth clique active in Northern Myanmar. The other four cliques that involved the ethnic Chinese included the Bai Xuoqian family (Bai Xuoqian was also named Bai Suocheng and he was born in Kokang in 1950 and he led the Union Solidarity and Development Party in Kokang), the Wei Chaoren family (Wei was born in Jiangxi and became once chief-of-staff of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army or MNDAA, but later he withdrew and his daughter Wei Rong’s Hanley Group was involved in property, hotel, jewelry and even telecom scam businesses), the Liu Guoxi family (Liu was born in Yunan and died in 2020, but his family members were involved in the mining, gambling and hotel business), and the Liu Chengxiang family (Liu’s Fully Light Group was active in the Shan state and Liu became a “successful” businessman).
All these families had their ethnic Chinese and Kokang origins, but the Bai, Wei and Liu Guoxi groups rebelled against their leader Pheung Kya-shin (Peng Jiasheng), who was the chairperson of the Kokang special region in Myanmar and the leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. Born in 1931 in Kokang and died in 2022, Pheung learnt military affairs and tactics from another ethnic Chinese chief of Kokang, Edward Yang Kyein Tsai. Pheung emerged in Kokang province as a leader of the Communist Party of Burma from 1969 to 1989, when he established his MNDAA. Pheung and his subordinates were criticized for being involved in trafficking in heroin in the 1970s and 1980s. In August 2009, Pheung suffered from his political decline as his subordinates like Bai Xuocheng, Wei Chaoren, Liu Guoxi, and Liu Chengxiang not only challenged his power but also began to side with the military junta. Pheung was regarded as a drug lord, but his decline in the 1990s and 2000s has recently been reversed by his son Peng Deren and deputy Yan Winzhong. The MNDAA under Peng Deren has picked up some weapons in a forest, fighting all its way into Laukaing and constituting a serious threat to the three of the four families that originally rebelled against Pheung Kya-shin, except for the Liu Chengxiang family which had not really turned against the old Pheung.
On October 27, 2023, the MNDAA began to fight against the telecom fraud organizations, including the Bai family group, whose leader Bai Xuoqian and his family members died during the collapse of their helicopter, which was shot down by the MNDAA.
The entire power struggle within the ethnic Kokang groups had important implications for Myanmar politics in general and Sino-Myanmar relations in particular.
First, ethnic Kokang politics were fierce and violent. The power struggles among the big families shaped the development of intra-ethnic rivalries in the Kokang and Shan regions.
Second, the MNDAA in Kokang has almost 8,000 militias and, most importantly, their “sudden” discovery of weapons, including 120 rockets and some Ukrainian weapons, appeared to be a surprising event. But it was reported in a Macau Chinese newspaper that the MNDAA invited some retired weapons manufacturers and technicians to visit Kokang so that its weaponry could be improved further. Furthermore, the MNDAA had drones that helped its struggles against not only the rival family groups but also the Myanmar military.
Third, China has succeeded in lobbying the Myanmar government to curb the influence of the syndicates and families that were involved in telecommunication fraud, which in recent years have been cheating many ignorant Chinese citizens to work in Northern Myanmar’s telecom scam organizations. Some mainland Chinese were easily deceived and made to believe that they could make easy profits by working in Myanmar. While education of ordinary citizens in mainland China has been made through media publicity, still some of them have been the easy victims of telecom fraud syndicates. The dismantling of the families and syndicates involved in telecom fraud can and will hopefully improve the situation of cross-border crime. In fact, on October 31, the Minister of the PRC Public Security, Wang Xiaohong, paid a visit to the Myanmar military high command and general Min Aung Hlaing, expressing the Chinese desire to work with the Myanmar military regime to curb cross-border criminal activities. Wang’s visit was followed by another visit by the PRC Foreign Ministry’s assistant minister Nong Rong on November 3, making four requests: (1) the persistence in the combat against cross-border crime; (2) the joint efforts at improving the governance of the border regions; (3) the support of Myanmar to deal with disputes within the constitutional and legal framework; and (4) the need for Myanmar to assist China in the process of maintaining border stability.
The two visits by Chinese officials represented a two-pronged strategy – one by the police and the other through diplomatic channel – of controlling and eliminating the telecommunication fraud syndicates in Northern Myanmar.
Another interesting interpretation was that the mainland official visits aimed at achieving not just the pacification of the telecom fraud syndicates but also the Myanmar authorities’ skillful handling of the MNDAA, which this time acted like an auxiliary force in support of the purge of the telecom fraud organizations.
Fourth, even though Myanmar is governed by the military junta, its territorial outreach encounters limitations in Norther Myanmar where ethnic groups and rebels are quite autonomous and active. Apart from the rebel groups in the northern regions, Western Myanmar also witnesses the Chin National Front, which is composed of the Christian Chin minority, and which signed a ceasefire with the government in 2015. In the Rakhine state in Western Myanmar, the Arakan Army is another rebel group against the military junta in late October, leading to a curfew. Therefore, in view of the persistence of rebels in different parts of Myanmar, the military regime appears to be strong on the surface but fragile underneath – a situation that might explain the rapidity in which the Myanmar police moved quickly against the telecom fraud syndicates and returned 31,000 ethnic Chinese back to the PRC.
In conclusion, the recent control over telecom fraud in Northern Myanmar has demonstrated not only the interplay between ethnic Kokang politics, where power struggles have involved several ethnic Chinese family groups, and the military regime, but also the determination of the PRC government and the Myanmar authorities to deal with cross-border crime. Ethnic politics in the Kokang region have embraced the power struggles among big family groups, their entanglement with both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, and their complex relations with some corrupt officials at the local level and perhaps some influential protectors at the central level too. Their protective “umbrella,” however, quickly collapsed after the death of four mainland Chinese undercover police. China’s combat against cross-border telecom fraud was ascertained after the two-pronged strategy of utilizing the police visit and diplomatic pressure was adopted. However, it remains to be seen how ethnic Kokang politics will evolve and whether the MNDAA will perhaps play both a delicate actor of controlling telecom fraud groups detrimental to China and a dynamic force acquiring some limited degree of autonomy from the central military authorities in Myanmar.