The significant presence of Chinese criminal syndicates in Southeast Asian countries is turning out to be a major problem for law enforcement and other public agencies in the region.
Several Chinese gangs are active in areas on the border between Cambodia and Thailand. The scale of such illegal activities has increased since the emergence of COVID-19, as many organized groups started taking advantage of vulnerable youth rendered unemployed due to the pandemic.
The rise of Chinese-run scam operations is closely linked to the increasing economic integration between China and Southeast Asia over the past decade, which has seen a surge in Chinese investment in the region. As they grow in scale, these operations increasingly resemble an industry. Such operations have been aided by weak legal frameworks and corrupt local elites in parts of the region, providing favorable conditions for illicit activities. The activities are also taking place in territories and special economic zones that exist beyond the effective reach of the host country’s legal apparatus.