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The volatile situation in Myanmar has had a roll-on effect on its neighbours, including the countries of India and Thailand. With an array of rebel militias increasing their offensive against the Military Junta in Myanmar, parts of the country are now said to be completely out of the central government’s control.

Two parts of Myanmar have been of particular concern to the world. One is the region of Myawaddy, which in April this year briefly fell to rebels and has since been largely in conflict. This has meant that international criminal gangs, with support from some groups, have used the area to flourish a criminal enterprise involved in cyber fraud, phishing, and illegal gambling and betting.

In a candid interview with ANI, Indian Ambassador to Thailand, Nagesh Singh, expressed grave concerns over the escalating crisis in Myanmar’s troubled regions, where ethnic armed groups have seized control, fostering a breeding ground for criminal syndicates and illicit activities.

Singh highlighted the severe challenges posed by the rampant operations of the Chinese mafia, orchestrating online scams, illegal casinos, and human trafficking networks across Myanmar’s lawless territories.

“Large parts of Myanmar are being controlled by various armed groups. There is no central authority with whom you can deal,” he stated.

The ambassador underscored the tragic plight of individuals from diverse countries, including India, Brazil, Africa, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines, who fall prey to false promises of lucrative jobs, only to be coerced into modern-day slavery upon crossing the border. “They come here, and once they go across the border, they are held hostage,” Singh lamented.

For the Indian Embassy in Thailand, the recent spurt in criminal activities is a huge problem. Thailand offers visa-free travel for Indian nationals, and often gullible youth are recruited by shady agents on the pretext of a job in the IT sector. On arrival, they are then often taken across the border to Myanmar to work for these syndicates.

Singh disclosed the Indian government’s proactive efforts to rescue its citizens, despite jurisdictional limitations. “About 320 odd Indians we’ve managed to repatriate in the last two years,” he revealed, acknowledging the persistent challenges in aiding the remaining victims still trapped in Myanmar’s perilous territories.

He emphasised the critical role of coordinated international efforts in combating this transnational threat, recognising it as a pressing concern for global security. “It’s being seen as a serious threat to all countries,” Singh remarked, calling for a concerted crackdown and heightened awareness campaigns to mitigate the risks faced by vulnerable individuals.

Amidst these dire circumstances, Singh assured continuous vigilance and swift responses from Indian diplomatic missions in Thailand and Myanmar, urging heightened caution among potential travelers and tighter border controls to curb illicit activities.

Another region that has spelled trouble is the Golden Triangle, a region that borders Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. In the absence of proper law enforcement agencies, the area in Myanmar’s territory in the Golden Triangle has seen criminal groups work with impunity.

As per a report by the US Institute of Peace in June, the scammers operating in the region accounted for nearly 39 billion USD in stolen funds. On reaching these centers, recruits are given targets a certain amount of cash; they must scam people. If these recruits do not achieve these targets, they would be subjected to abuse and then forced to pay ransoms to get free of their captors. In March of this year, 19 Indians were rescued from the area. The scam has forced the Indian mission to issue a warning to Indians about accepting such offers.

Indian Ambassador to Laos Prashant Agarwal has advised Indian youth to exercise “utmost caution” on being offered job opportunities there and ascertain how genuine and safe these offers are, for which they can also contact the Indian Embassy Lao PDR.

“The Embassy has issued a very detailed advisory, which is being very well disseminated and is available on our website also. The Ministry of External Affairs has also issued a very detailed advisory in this regard,” the Indian envoy told ANI in an earlier interview.

He added, “Essentially, what we want from our youth is to exercise the utmost caution. If they are told of any opportunity in this region, they must do their own diligence and dissidents…We have given our phone numbers and contact details; they are most welcome to contact us to ascertain whether the offers are bona fide and genuine before they travel out of India, make payments, and so on. So it is extremely essential that people exercise utmost caution before accepting any such offers.”

With the ASEAN bloc appointing a special envoy to Myanmar, there is some hope that there could be a solution to the crisis in the region. In such times, the volatility has diplomats in the region working overtime to ensure that they can keep people informed of shady job offers.