Myanmar rebel offensive drives Chinese mafia out of notorious casino town

According to reports, Ming Xuechang, the leader of one of the five Lao Jin ethnic groups, was killed during a rebel uprising in Shan State, Myanmar.

Apr 8, 2024
2 min read
Lao Kang in the Kokang Autonomous Region of Myanmar's Shan State was turned into a casino town
Lao Kang in the Kokang Autonomous Region of Myanmar's Shan State was turned into a casino town by the Chinese mafia with the support of the military government. But their days appear to be


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Myanmar rebel offensive drives Chinese mafia out of notorious casino town

A rebel alliance in Myanmar's semi-lawless Shan state has raided the border gambling town of Lao Kam and overthrew the local Chinese mafia that had run casinos and cheating factories for years.

An alliance of ethnic minority groups and pro-democracy activists from three regions has seized major cities near the Chinese border. The situation has persisted since fighting broke out in late October and has hampered trade routes, Al Jazeera reported. The rebels say they aim to end the "repressive military dictatorship" in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

In Lao Kam, they released trafficked fraudulent call center workers and arrested members of the "Five Ruling Families" (Chinese mafia warlords) and handed them over to Chinese authorities. In return for support for Myanmar's military junta, the families enjoy near autonomy in the region. But now they realize they were supporting the wrong side.

Workers killed by human trafficking

Pictures released by Chinese state media showed police handcuffing a man and a woman, identified as Ming Guoping and Ming Zhenzhen, at the border crossing. He is the son or granddaughter of Mafia warlord Ming-senpai, who was reportedly killed in custody.

The Ming Dynasty would have been a target for the rebels. On October 20, a large group of human trafficking workers were moved out of Ming's fraud center complex (known as the "Crouching Tiger Villa") in Lao Cai.

A group of dozens broke free and tried to escape, but were shot by Ming's guards. According to multiple media reports, many people have died. Some reports also suggested that plainclothes Chinese police may have been involved in the shooting.

The incident prompted Chinese authorities to issue arrest warrants for several members of the Ming family. This could be the trigger for a rebel uprising.

China nominally supports the military junta that takes power in 2021, although relations have soured. The uprising could not have happened so close to the border without China's tacit approval. That's bad news for the junta and the casino warlords it protects.

The Rise of the Mafia Warlords

The area has long been a stronghold for ethnic rebel groups. Until 2009, Lao Cai was controlled by local warlord and rebel commander Peng Jiasheng. But the former military junta wanted to plant allies in the lawless region and supported its right-hand man, Bai Suocheng, in launching a coup to overthrow Peng.

Peng was exiled to China and died last year at the age of 91. Meanwhile, in return for his loyalty to the Burmese regime, Bai was given carte blanche to profit from casinos that lured Chinese tourists from across the border.

He became chairman of the Kokang Autonomous Region and leader of five families, expanded his business scope to include money laundering, drugs and human trafficking, and established an industrial-scale fraud center.

Chinese state media reported an unconfirmed rebel report that Bai was captured on November 17 while trying to flee the area. He is currently being held by the Myanmar military.

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