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Border Guard Force orders foreigners to leave scam centers

The Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF) issued a warning earlier this month that any foreigners working at online scam compounds in Myawaddy Township must leave before Oct. 31. The U.N. has stated that 120,000 people have been trafficked into Myanmar to work at cyber scam operations.

“The crucial aspect is ensuring that they leave within six months, as it demonstrates international cooperation,” said Naing Maung Zaw, the BGF spokesperson.

A United States Institute of Peace (USIP) report in April stated that the BGF, which recently rebranded itself as the Karen National Army (KNA), earns approximately $192 million USD annually from cyber scams in areas under its control, including at the Shwe Kokko Yatai New City Project.

The USIP report went on to note that since China launched a crackdown on cyber scams along its border last year, many have relocated to Myawaddy, which is located along Thailand’s border. 

“There’s in the range of 20 large-scale [scam] compounds directly under the control of the BGF, with security, with access to the internet, with electricity all being provided. There’s absolutely no way that the [BGF] was not aware of what was going on inside of those compounds. I mean, it has an official share in the companies that have been set up to manage all of the scamming activity,” said Jason Tower, the Myanmar country director at USIP.

The Brotherhood Alliance stated that it launched Operation 1027 in October to shut down cyber scam compounds along the China-Myanmar border. This has pushed many to relocate into Laos and Cambodia, added the USIP report.

But job ads to work at cyber scam compounds inside the Shwe Kokko Yatai New City Project, located 20 km north of Myawaddy, are proliferating online. Some cyber scam compounds offer Myanmar citizens 30,000-40,000 Thai baht per month ($819-1,093 USD). 

A former cyber scammer working inside Shwe Kokko told DVB about the tasks included in the job ads. One ad mentions “finding,” which means to locate potential victims, and “chatting,” which requires deceiving victims to invest their money in a fake online platform.

Anti-human trafficking groups in Thailand have reported that victims forced to work at Shwe Kokko come from several countries in Asia and Africa. “To fight these scamming businesses, we are ready to cooperate with the international community,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the Karen National Union (KNU) spokesperson, told DVB.

The KNU took control of the military’s last outpost in Myawaddy on April 11 vowing to crack down on cyber scams along the Thai-Myanmar border. It left the outpost under BGF/KNA control, but 12 days later it was handed back to the military.

The regime in Naypyidaw receives up to 50 percent of the $192 million USD earned by the BGF/KNA through cyber scamming operations, stated the USIP report.

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