China, Thailand, Laos discuss ways to curb online gambling, fraud operations
Six online fraud suspects, including a key member of a gambling and fraud gang, were handed over to Chinese police by their Myanmar counterparts on Wednesday.
It is the second time in recent months that online fraud suspects operating illegally in Myanmar have been detained by local police. In June, six online fraud suspects were brought back to China. These joint actions underscore the shared determination of both sides to combat such crimes, the Chinese embassy in Myanmar said.
Recent media attention on online fraud, including the popular anti-fraud film No More Bets, which is based on real cases, has heightened public awareness of overseas online fraud.
Reports of criminals involved in online fraud in northern Myanmar and pleas for help from the victims to family members back home have also gained widespread public attention. Many netizens have called for stronger crackdowns on the criminal gangs.
On Tuesday, the ambassadors of China, Thailand and Laos held a meeting to discuss ways to enhance cooperation on combating illegal gambling and fraud in the region.
China, Thailand and Laos said such crimes in the region are rampant and have seriously damaged the lives and property of all their citizens. The three embassies' representatives said they had paid close attention to the situation, and actively cooperated with authorities to offer assistance to victims of such crimes, and worked to stop the gambling and fraud groups.
On Aug 15, officials of the top public security departments from China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos jointly launched an operation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to combat online fraud and gambling-related crimes in the region, such as human trafficking, kidnapping and illegal detention.
The four countries' cooperation demonstrates their unity and determination to fight cross-border online fraud, which has caused great losses to people from all the countries, Wang Xiaowei, an associate professor at the School of Investigation of the People's Public Security University of China, said in an interview with China Central Television.
Although China and other countries have undertaken some cooperation on enforcement in recent years, the high incidence of online fraud has not been fully curbed, he said.
Wang said online gambling and fraud often overlap. "Activities such as online fraud and gambling have formed a cross-border, organized crime industry encompassing various criminal activities. To effectively dismantle the criminal network, all its links and associated groups must be targeted," he said.
Wang said the primary challenge in combating cross-border online fraud is through the cooperation of countries. Collaboration between Chinese police and foreign law enforcement agencies depends on local laws and the availability of evidence during apprehension and investigation. These factors present complications in the extradition of criminals.
Another challenge is that fraudsters are increasingly incorporating their scams into people's daily lives through new technologies. The constantly evolving methods employed by criminals make combating their activities more difficult, Wang said.
In August last year, a doctorate degree holder at the Chinese Academy of Sciences surnamed Zhang was tricked into going to Myawaddy in southeastern Myanmar. Zhang's relatives recently sought help online after a criminal gang sent a message to the doctor's girlfriend demanding 120,000 yuan ($16,450) for his release.
The Chinese embassy in Myanmar said on Tuesday that it has been in contact with Zhang's family, local police and relevant government departments in Myanmar and Thailand to push forward investigation and rescue efforts.
In recent years, China has intensified efforts to crack down on online fraud. In addition to international law enforcement cooperation, it has also strengthened collaboration between multiple departments to combat these crimes.
In July, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee held a meeting and urged public security and judicial departments to severely crack down on illegal activities such as cross-border online fraud and the domestic collaborators in such crimes.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, the police resolved 464,000 online fraud cases last year, and detained 351 core members of fraud groups.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology intercepted 2.1 billion phone calls and 2.42 billion messages related to fraud, while the Cyberspace Administration of China blocked nearly 800,000 overseas websites and 38,000 IP addresses involved in fraud.