On November 23, 2023, a coalition of rebels in Myanmar’s Shan State successfully overthrew the Chinese mafia that had been operating casinos and scam factories in the border town of Laukkaing for years. The rebels, composed of three regional ethnic minority groups and pro-democracy fighters, have been taking over key towns close to the Chinese border since late October, aiming to put an end to the “oppressive military dictatorship” in Myanmar.
The rebels have liberated trafficked workers from scam call centers in Laukkaing and have apprehended members of the “five ruling families,” who were then handed over to Chinese authorities. These families, who have been supporting Myanmar’s military junta, have enjoyed autonomy in the region, but now find themselves on the wrong side of the conflict.
The rebellion was triggered by an incident where a large group of trafficked workers, being transferred from a scam center complex in Laukkaing, attempted to escape and were fired upon by guards, resulting in several deaths. This prompted Chinese authorities to issue arrest warrants for several members of the Ming family, one of the ruling families.
Despite China’s nominal support for the junta, the rebellion near the border suggests China’s tacit approval, indicating strained relations between China and the junta. The region’s history involves the overthrow of the previous warlord by a right-hand man, who then gained the support of the Myanmar regime and expanded their operations into various illicit activities.
On November 17, Chinese state media reported that the rebel group captured Bai Suocheng, the head of the five families, as he attempted to flee the region. He is currently being held by the Myanmar military.
The rebellion in Laukkaing signifies a major shift in power dynamics in the region and poses a significant threat to the Chinese mafia and their ties to the military junta.