Posted: July 19, 2021, 10:44 a.m.

Last update on: July 19, 2021, 10:44 a.m.

China’s most recent crackdown on online fraud and gambling is wreaking havoc on its border with Myanmar (Burma) amid a Covid outbreak in that country, The South China Morning Post reports.

Gambling in Burma
The United Wa State Army, pictured, presides over one of the most remote and secret places on the planet. (Image: Ye Aung Thu / AFP)

Myanmar’s semi-autonomous border regions of Muse, Kokang, Wa State and Mong La have engaged in a sustained trade in illegal online casino gambling, telecommunications fraud and internet scamming. This was largely perpetrated by Chinese expatriates on their compatriots, according to authorities in Beijing.

In May, China’s local public security bureaus ordered those involved in illicit enterprises in northern Myanmar to return to their homes or suffer the consequences. The message was then refined to include “all Chinese nationals” in the region, potentially over 140,000 people.

Security officials said those who refused would find themselves and their families excluded from social assistance, subsidies and public services, according to SCMP.

Covid looks up

To make matters worse, a recent increase in coronavirus cases in Myanmar means returning Chinese citizens have to quarantine themselves for five days on the Burmese side of the border at a cost of around US $ 250. Then they have to isolate themselves for another three weeks on the other side.

Meanwhile, they must pass seven viral tests before they are allowed to continue their journey, according to SCMP sources who experienced the process.

Because the quarantine center in Myanmar only has a capacity of a few hundred, there are tens of thousands of people in line to return home.

Most of those who have spoken SCMP said they came from the poorest parts of China and claimed they were in Myanmar to earn a legal living. Some said their families at home were harassed by authorities on the assumption that they must be fraudsters.

Many of those who returned home said they had to sell goods and assets in Myanmar for a fraction of the price in the race to leave.

Some wonder if the policy is legal under Chinese law because it presumes the guilt of thousands of people who have done nothing wrong.

The mighty Wa

Politics can be onerous, but it seems to have the desired effect. The Chinese exodus has severely affected the economy of the de facto independent Wa State, and others.

Wa State is ruled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the largest and most powerful of several Burmese armed separatist groups. Communist in origin, the USWA rules one of the most remote and secret places on the planet.

Until recently, it was the largest drug trafficker in Southeast Asia, controlling the flow of heroin and other narcotics from the infamous Golden Triangle region.

Drug revenues bought the arms and power of the USWA, enabling a 1989 peace treaty with the ruling Burmese military junta that brought autonomy to Wa State, though tensions still simmer. .

Wa bans online gambling

Wa State relies on Chinese companies for infrastructure, such as electricity and mobile phone networks, which allows Beijing to have some influence in Wa affairs.

The state claims to have transformed its economy over the past two decades from one based on drug trafficking to one focused on the production and distribution of rubber and tea, all at the behest of the central government Chinese in Beijing.

Supreme Head of Wa State Bao Youxiang, 71, admitted in a letter dated June 17 that China’s recall of its citizens had seriously disrupted normal business.

“All the supplies and technology we need depend on China,” he wrote. “To survive and develop, we cannot go against Chinese policy. Therefore, I have decided to completely ban the online gambling industry within the state.

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