China vows closer security ties with Mekong states as cyber scams, Myanmar unrest have cross-border impact

China will strive to eradicate security threats endangering public safety and development in these countries, Wang told a press conference on Thursday.

Earlier this year, Beijing vowed to double down on cyber scam crackdowns across the Mekong River basin.

Northern Myanmar on the southwestern Chinese border in particular, with its close cultural and political ties with China, is a major base for cyber scammers who often lure Chinese with job hopes and coerce them into working for them.

At least 120,000 people in strife-torn Myanmar and roughly 100,000 in Cambodia “may be held in situations where they are forced to carry out online scams”, the United Nations human rights office said a report in August.

The forced online criminality could range from romance-investment scams and crypto fraud to illegal gambling, and the victims endured “inhumane treatment”, the report said.

China has been pushed to step up crackdowns in the region after news of forced labour and online scams made headlines in the summer.

Last month, Myanmar handed over 31,000 telecoms fraud suspects to China, including 63 “financiers” and ringleaders of crime syndicates that Beijing’s public security ministry says swindled Chinese citizens out of large sums of money.

In a flurry of meetings with Southeast Asian diplomats ahead of the regional forum, Wang highlighted China’s resolve to counter cyber scams and human trafficking in Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, and pledged further cooperation on the matter.

China is also facing the fallout of continued unrest in northern Myanmar, as the military junta there grapples with one of the biggest rebel challenges to its rule.

China urges Myanmar to restore border stability as conflict intensifies

Multiple armed groups launched a coordinated offensive in late October across the northern Myanmese provincial administrations of Shan and Kachin state, and the upper Sagaing Region.

Several combats have closed in on China’s border towns, forcing locals to evacuate several times.

China’s border runs for 2,000km (1,250 miles) along the Shan and Kachin states, with at least 10 cross-border ports in its southwestern province of Yunnan.

During talks with Wang a day ahead of the Mekong meeting, Myanmar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Than Shwe said his country hoped “to continue to receive support and help from China to achieve domestic peace and stability”.

Wang said China would not interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs but hoped the country could “achieve national reconciliation” and “continue its political transformation process under the constitutional framework as soon as possible”.

At the summit, Wang also said China was willing to cooperate with Mekong basin countries on economic, technological and cultural matters and to encourage people-to-people exchanges.

All five Mekong countries are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative multinational infrastructure and investment plan. Better-known projects include a 1,035km (643 mile) high-speed railway in Laos that opened in 2021, and pipelines to transport natural gas and crude oil from Myanmar’s deep water port of Kyaukphyu in the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan’s capital Kunming.

The five are also part of the 10-nation Asean regional bloc, China’s biggest trading partner. Trade volume with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expanded 120 per cent over a decade to US$975.3 billion in 2022, according to Beijing’s commerce ministry.


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