Center ignored red flags as Indians became ‘cyber slaves’ in Myanmar

Indian missions in Myanmar and Thailand had reported some time ago that shady companies were recruiting Indian technicians, but the MEA waited until last week to issue a local advisory on the bogus job racketeering.

The criminals managed to “trick” more than 100 IT professionals from various parts of India into offering bogus jobs in Thailand, apparently between July and August. Representative picture

India caught napping with cyber criminals entrapping large numbers of Indians as “slaves” in a conflict zone in Myanmar which has become a security nightmare for New Delhi.

The criminals managed to “trick” information technology (IT) professionals numbering over a hundred from various parts of India into offering bogus jobs in Thailand, reportedly between July and August. The unfortunate turn of events occurred despite the Center being made aware of the “fake recruitment” racket in July itself, sources said.

Early Warnings Ignored

The Indian mission in Yangon had observed as early as July 5 that some ICT companies engaged in digital scam/crypto forging activities located in remote border areas of eastern Myanmar were recruiting Indian workers from different places by the through their recruitment agents on the pretext of a potential job. opportunities in the information technology sector.

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India’s mission to Thailand had also warned against fake job racketeering, issuing a notice in August.

Read also : First batch of rescued Indians used as ‘digital slaves’ in Myanmar return home

This obviously raised the question of why the Department of External Affairs waited until Saturday (September 24) to issue an opinion in India on the fake jobs racket allegedly operated by shadowy Chinese business networks in partnership with groups. mutually hostile armed forces engaged in intense fighting in Kayin (Karen) State in southeastern Myanmar.

If the government had disseminated the information widely in the country as it has done now after the Tamil Nadu government raised the alarm, many IT professionals could have been prevented from falling into the trap, said said sources close to the development.

They pointed out that the existence of the international racketeering came to light last December when a young Malaysian held captive by the cybercrime syndicate was sent home.

As many as 35 of its job-scammed citizens had been rescued from Myanmar by Malaysia in June this year – days before India finally took notice of the threat in July.

Little attention in India

Surprisingly, even after the fraud was brought to its attention by its mission in Myanmar, the MEA left it to its embassy in Yangon to issue an opinion. That it was not widely noticed in India is evident from the large number of Indian victims who were trapped there.

Last week, the MEA said 100-150 Indians were detained by the crime syndicate in Myawaddy district, Kayin state. Unofficial sources, however, put the number at between 300 and 500.

Read also : One year after the coup, the Burmese army faces chaos and resistance

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, in a September 21 letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said his government had information that 300 Indians, including 50 Tamils, were being held in illegal captivity in Myanmar.

Modus operandi of scammers

The unions’ modus operandi is to lure computer-skilled young people into lucrative data entry jobs in Thailand, promising a monthly salary of between $5,000 and $8,000, sources said. The so-called job vacancies are advertised on social media as well as by recruitment agents based in Dubai and India.

The “recruits” are then taken to Thailand using the visa on arrival system. Upon arrival in Thailand, they are taken to Mae Sot in Tak Province. From there, they are taken across the Moei River at night to illegally enter Myawaddy. They were then forced to work as con artists in the facilities set up in the remote border state.

India’s rescue attempt with the help of Myanmar’s military regime has failed to make much progress, and only about 32 people have been released so far.

The main obstacle to the rescue mission is that the area where the IT professionals are being held hostage is controlled by one of Myanmar’s oldest armed ethnic groups, the Karen National Union (KNU) and its armed wing. , the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

The rebels have now sided with pro-democracy groups and are fighting the Border Guard Force (BGF), a unit of the military junta that seized power in Myanmar in a February coup. ‘last year. The BGF consists mainly of former Karen rebels who are mostly Buddhists. The KNU and KNLA are predominantly Christian.

Chinese criminal networks have partnered with the Karen rebels as well as the BGF to carry out their criminal activities from the conflict zone in Myanmar, according to a report by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP).

“In total, 157 km2 of Burmese territory has fallen under the control of Chinese companies linked to gambling, money laundering, cryptocurrency and even criminal networks,” reported the American federal institution created by the US Congress to promote conflict resolution and prevention around the world.

Embarrassed by links with the junta

India’s close ties to the junta have further hampered its efforts to liberate its citizens from rebel-held territory.

Read also : Events in Myanmar do not bode well for India’s security interests

India’s policies after the coup in Myanmar have already drawn criticism from various quarters, including pro-democracy groups in Myanmar.

The friendship and ties between India and Myanmar in the future would not be the same as “the people of Myanmar would not forget where the Indian government was at in these difficult times”, observed Zin Mar Aung, Foreign Minister of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a government in exile formed by ousted lawmakers and parliamentarians.

“Although the actions of the Burmese military have fundamentally undermined India’s interests, New Delhi continues to have close ties with the junta – an institution universally reviled in Myanmar and which has once again turned Myanmar into a a global pariah,” USIP said in another report. May this year.

“If instead India were to walk away from the military junta, provide humanitarian aid to refugees from Myanmar and engage the deposed NUG in Myanmar, it would not only strengthen the democracy movement in Myanmar in a way that could help end the civil war, but it would generate enormous goodwill from the Burmese public which would benefit India’s long-term interests in the country,” he added.

Apart from recent human trafficking for cybercrime, the Thailand-Myanmar border post at Myawaddy is also of concern to New Delhi as it is a major transit route for drugs, illegal weapons and even of exotic animals smuggled into India, said sources in the Assam Rifles guarding the India-Myanmar border.

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