Beyond the Mekong

Trafficked and Desperate: A Conversation With Judah Tana

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Beyond the Mekong | Security | Southeast Asia

Trafficked and Desperate: A Conversation With Judah Tana

Horror tales from inside Myanmar’s cyber-scam cities.

Trafficked and Desperate: A Conversation With Judah Tana
Credit: Photo Supplied

Judah Tana has spent the last two decades in humanitarian work along the Thailand-Myanmar border, where criminal syndicates have revolutionized human trafficking and 21st-century slavery into an industry with worldwide turnover in the trillions of dollars.

Myanmar, along with Cambodia and Laos, has also been fingered by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) as the epicenter for organized crime-run scam compounds, which Tana says have proliferated beyond all expectations, mushrooming into cities.

As founder and international director of Global Advance Projects, Tana has rescued hundreds of victims who were trafficked, severely tortured, starved, witnessed murder, jumped from buildings – and arrived in Myanmar from more than 60 countries as far-flung as Uganda and Morocco.

An Australian citizen, Tana spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt in Mae Sot on the Thailand-Myanmar border about the sheer scale of these scam cities, the inadequacies of local law enforcement, and the costs of getting people out. “It’s hard to know where to go next,” he says.

Tana explains why governments are two years behind the logistic and technological capabilities of Chinese crime syndicates. As a strategic advisor on rescue operations, he has urged the United States to take a much tougher stance through sanctions and the law.

That would at least enable other countries to follow in a much-needed coordinated international crackdown on the crime syndicates and their cities, where trafficked victims continue to be forced into scamming with little chance of rescue.