Crackdown on telecom fraud good for development
The recent joint crackdown by China and Myanmar against telecom fraudsters has made remarkable achievements.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security announced in late November that Myanmar had rung the death knell for some telecom fraud groups with the extradition of 31,000 fraudsters to China, including three group leaders who were wanted by the Chinese public security organs; another suspect on the most-wanted list apparently committed suicide before he could be arrested.
Although the crime is yet to be wiped out completely, the successful operation against telecom fraud is good news for not only China, but also Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries.
The transnational dens of telecom fraud are concentrated in northern Myanmar, although some criminals have fled to other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, which poses serious and far-reaching harm to the region.
These fraudsters damage national and people's interests in the following ways:
First, telecom fraud is rampant. So much so that victims in China, Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries have not only lost property, entire families have fallen into penury, and some people have ended up killing themselves. At a time when global economic stagnation has already reduced incomes in many countries, such telecom frauds have increased the hardships for many.
Second, such frauds impede economic recovery. Tourism used to be an important pillar of Myanmar's economy before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, gangs carrying out telecom frauds, human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, illegal detention and murders are scaring away tourists. Most of the cities are still safe and the criminal activities take place in Myanmar's northern region, but it is still taking a toll on tourism.
According to official data from Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, 4.36 million foreign tourists visited Myanmar in 2019, helping Myanmar earn around $3 billion in revenue. Of the foreign tourists, 749,719 were Chinese.
According to Myanmar's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, the country welcomed 367,368 international tourists in fiscal year 2022-23, as compared to 127,989 visitors in the previous fiscal year. Among the 367,368 tourists, 48,342, or 13.15 percent, were Chinese.
So far, Myanmar's tourism industry and related accommodation, catering, and transportation sectors remain in bad shape. Many workers have poor incomes or are unemployed.
By combating telecom fraud, Myanmar can improve its image, draw more tourists and improve its overall economic development.
The telecom fraudsters are also affecting the business environment in Southeast Asian countries, making them unfavorable as foreign investment destinations.
Third, transnational telecom scams have damaged trust and impeded people-to-people exchanges in the post-pandemic era. Although the telecom fraudsters are mainly concentrated in northern Myanmar, their victims are spread across China, Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries, which is triggering misunderstanding among the people of these countries and arresting the resumption of people-to-people exchanges that have stagnated because of the pandemic.
Telecom fraud is becoming a cancer that endangers the economic development of China, Myanmar and many other countries, increasing risks to property and people's well-being. However, a large number of telecom fraud suspects flee to other countries in the region, making it difficult for just one country to deal with them. Transnational law enforcement is therefore a must to safeguard people's lives, property and safety and will also benefit economic development in the region in the long run.
Despite the crackdown, telecom fraud has not been rooted out yet. China will continue to cooperate with other countries in the fight against telecom fraudsters and more transnational action should be carried out against such crimes for the sake of their peoples.
The author is a professor at the School of Asian Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.