Mass deportation of Chinese from Fiji in fraud crackdown

Chinese nationals suspected of telecom fraud are escorted into a bus to an airport in Preah Sihanouk province, awaiting deportation to China, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 26, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 August 2017
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Mass deportation of Chinese from Fiji in fraud crackdown

SUVA, FIJI: Fiji has deported 77 Chinese nationals accused of running a phone and online scam targeting victims in mainland China, the latest in a series of overseas crackdowns orchestrated by Beijing.
The mass arrest and expulsion was part of a month-long operation involving both Fijian and Chinese law enforcement agencies, and echoes similar joint operations carried out in Indonesia and Cambodia last week.
Cyber criminals targeting victims in China have increasingly exploited technological advances to operate from abroad in a bid to evade authorities.
The Fiji-based ring is suspected of involvement in more than 50 telecom and online fraud cases, and cost victims in China more than six million yuan ($892,000), Fijian police said Tuesday, without giving precise details of the scams.
“These 77 Chinese nationals have been sent back to China from Fiji on August 4, 2017,” the Fiji police and Chinese embassy in Suva said in a joint statement.
The accused were flown to Changchun in northeast China’s Jilin Province.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said the scam came to light after one of the victims was swindled out of 1.3 million yuan and committed suicide, triggering a large-scale investigation.
The probe exposed an illegal online gambling and lottery gang involving more than 200 suspects based in China, Indonesia and Fiji who had illegally taken nearly 100 million yuan.
A team of Chinese police were sent to Fiji four weeks ago and on July 18 they arrested the 77 suspects and confiscated equipment, including mobile phones, computers and bank cards.
Another 83 people were arrested in China.
Beijing has become increasingly assertive in extraditing overseas fraud suspects.
Last week, Indonesia deported 143 people, including 22 Taiwanese, to China over fraud cases, days after police said they had busted a sprawling $450 million cyber fraud ring targeting wealthy businessmen and politicians in China.
The deportations drew a strong protest from Taiwan, which said the Taiwanese suspects should have been returned to the island.
Taiwan’s representative office in Suva said it had been assured by Fiji police that the 77 deported from the South Pacific nation were all nationals of the People’s Republic of China.
Also last week, Cambodia arrested more than 200 Chinese men and women suspected of running an online scam that persuaded victims to send nude photographs and then extorted them for cash, after a tip-off from Chinese authorities.


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 57 min 4 sec ago
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.