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Cross-border deal to fight kidnappings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 January, 2009, 12:00am
 

Authorities in Myanmar have agreed to work with their counterparts in China to stop a cross-border kidnapping ring in which as many as 50 mainland teenagers might have been tortured and held for ransom, according to The Beijing News.

Police arrested two of nine suspects believed to have been involved in kidnapping and transporting the victims to Myanmar, Xinhua said. Both were Shanxi natives, and police were searching for three more suspects from the province.

No information about the four others was available.

In a report yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Myanmese embassy in Beijing said the two countries would 'launch a joint operation to stem kidnapping ... because it was regarded as a crime in Myanmar'.

The statement followed revelations in the newspaper that boys from Yuncheng , Shanxi, were lured to Yunnan on the promise of high-paying work and then taken across the border into Myanmar, where they were starved and tortured until their parents paid thousands of yuan in ransom.

The report said the youngest of the boys was 14, and they were imprisoned at a casino in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state.

But the number of kidnapped boys varies according to the source. Xinhua quoted police sources as saying that about 19 teens had been abducted and all but two of them were home on Wednesday after their parents paid up.

But the Yangtse Evening Post quoted another police source as saying that more than 50 boys might have been abducted.

Figures from Yuncheng's Yanhu district police showed that abductions were reported in six of the city's county-level regions since August, particularly between then and October.

The gang freed the victims after their families paid ransoms ranging from 20,000 yuan (HK$22,722) to 100,000 yuan.

Wang Jian, 16, was set free after police paid 1,000 yuan in ransom because his parents could not afford the demands.

Wang Jian said he followed two childhood friends to Kunming , Yunnan, on October 12 because the two promised to find him a job paying 7,000 yuan a month. But he was taken across the border and locked in a casino room, where he saw a dozen boys, all starved and frequently beaten. They were told to call their parents for money.

In an interview with The Beijing News, two released middle-school students said they were burned on the neck with cigarettes and had their fingernails pulled out.

The teenagers were also told to fight with one another to win a meal. The loser would be put in a cage with an unlocked gate separating him from a bear.

Myitkyina is a well-known casino hub that used to receive officials and rich businessmen, but the number of guests slumped after Beijing banned gambling trips across the border into Myanmar in 2005.

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