Laos repatriates 268 Chinese suspected of scamming

The suspects were all arrested in the Golden Triangle SEZ.
By RFA Lao
Laos repatriates 268 Chinese suspected of scamming A casino stands in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone on the banks of the Mekong river in Laos, March 2, 2016.
Jorge Silva/Reuters

Laos has repatriated 268 Chinese citizens suspected of scamming while living or working at a murky Chinese-run special zone along the Mekong river, the China Daily reported.

The Lao Ministry of Public Security confirmed to Radio Free Asia that the suspects were sent back to China in January, and that they were all arrested in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, or SEZ, a gambling and tourism hub in northern Laos that caters to Chinese tourists.

The handover took place in January at Bokeo international airport, a ministry official said. The Chinese media just reported about this on Feb. 28, he said.

An official at the Chinese Embassy in Vientiane told RFA that the Chinese consular officials in Luang Prabang province went to the airport to witness the handover.

Several Lao citizens told RFA Lao that they were happy that suspected criminals from the SEZ were being sent back because by using the zone as their base of operations they were giving Laos a bad reputation as a hotbed for crime.

“I closely follow news of the [alleged] scammers,” a Lao citizen, who like all unnamed sources in this report requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA. “I think it is not easy to wipe them out in a short period of time and it seems it could take many years.”

Another citizen told RFA that there are notices throughout the country that warn Lao people not to be duped into taking high paying jobs offered by unknown parties in the special economic zone. 

The warnings are clear but still people fall for them, and many end up being made to scam foreign tourists in the zone, or worse, trafficked to other countries or “sold” into the sex trade.

“I always hear the warnings, but I still see some people take job offers to work there,” he said. “However, there are fewer people going there now and those who are already there are returning, as I observe.”

An official in Bokeo province said that some family members come to ask for help from the executive office of the zone or relevant officials to investigate the cases of Lao citizens or foreigners who are lured to conduct illegal work in the zone who later disappeared, or lost contact with them.

“They file documents to us and then there is a team, consisting of officials from the department of social welfare and labor and the immigration police, who work on each case,” he said. “There is also a task force unit and we will follow up the cases filed.”

In November, Lao and Chinese police jointly cracked down on call-center scammers in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone and arrested up to 462 Chinese nationals. All of them were sent back to China for further investigation via the Laos-China border at the Boten-Mohan international border checkpoint.

In September, the Lao ministry of public security handed over 164 Chinese nationals who were believed to be involved with telecom fraud in China.

Reported by RFA for Lao service and translated by Phouvong. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.


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