Triad Casino ‘Warlords’ Turned Over to China by Myanmar Junta

Posted on: January 31, 2024, 05:47h. 

Last updated on: February 3, 2024, 01:14h.

Myanmar’s military junta has handed three triad warlords over to Chinese authorities, the BBC reports.

Myanmar, Bai Suocheng, Wei Chaoren, Liu Zhengxiang, Laukkaing
Bai Suocheng is detained by Chinese authorities after arriving on a flight from Myanmar. The triad warlord enjoyed near autonomy in Laukkaing before rebels stormed the city and his former protectors in the junta turned against him. (Image: Xinhua)

Until recently, Bai Suocheng, Wei Chaoren, and Liu Zhengxiang ran the city of Laukkaing in Myanmar’s semi-lawless Shan State as their personal fiefdom. But they were forced to flee when ethnic rebels advanced on the city.

Under the triads, Laukkaing was transformed from a sleepy backwater into a casino hub that became a hotspot for criminal activity, especially scam centers.

In November, rebel groups stormed Laukkaing, freeing trafficked workers and seizing members of the ruling triad families. That’s as the country’s military government forces reportedly laid down their arms and retreated.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been trafficked into such centers across Southeast Asia, according to the United Nations.

Fraud Factory

The three warlords enjoyed near autonomy in the region, long a stronghold of ethnic rebel groups, in return for their support for Myanmar’s military government. Laukkaing’s fraud factories have generated billions of dollars in revenue for the junta and the triads.

The rebels, known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance (TBA), are an alliance between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, MNDAA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army.

Laukkaing represented a key victory for the TBA, which has seized at least 35 towns since it launched its uprising in October, according to Reuters.

Bai, Wei, and Liu were intercepted by junta forces as they fled Laukkaing in November, according to rebel accounts at the time, reported by Chinese state media.

Beijing Turns Against Junta

Until 2009, Laukkaing was controlled by local warlord Peng Jiasheng, a rebel commander. However, the previous military government wanted to install allies in the lawless region. It backed a coup against Peng by his right-hand man, Bai.

Peng was exiled to China, and in return for his loyalty to the government, Bai was given the freedom to profit from casinos, luring Chinese visitors from across the border.

He became chairman of the wider Kokang autonomous region and head of a cabal of five Mafia families, including those led by Wei and Liu. Together, they branched out into money laundering and drug and human trafficking.

Beijing became concerned about the scam centers and casinos so close to its borders and, in November, issued arrest warrants for several operators. This may have been the catalyst for the rebels to attack Laukkaing.

It’s unlikely the rebellion would have been allowed to occur so close to the border without China’s approval.

‘Severe Crimes’

In December, Chinese authorities offered an official reward for capturing Bai, Wei, Liu, and others in their network, describing them as “ringleaders.” That left the beleaguered junta little option but to hand them over to the regional superpower.

For a long time, multiple criminal groups … in northern Myanmar have openly organized armed fraud gangs and carried out fraud crimes against Chinese citizens,” China’s Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday, as reported by the BBC.

The ministry accused the three triad warlords of “multiple and severe violent crimes,” including murder, assault, and illegal detention.