Yangon police have arrested five men who were involved in scamming two foreign tourists who visited Dala Township on July 6, Eleven reported today.
The scam strongly resembles the type of extortion that has made so-called “tour guides” in Dala infamous since international tourism in Myanmar began to spike a few years ago. The scammers are rarely arrested because tourists often decide pay them off rather than report the scam to police who only speak Burmese.
The scam began when two men approached two women – one from Hong Kong and one from the UK – in downtown Yangon’s Maha Bandoola Park and invited them to visit Dala Township, just south of the Yangon River, saying they wanted to practice their English.
The women went along, and when they got to Dala, they encountered another five men, who were waiting with motorbikes to take the women around the area. However, the women said they didn’t want to ride the motorbikes because it was raining and told their hosts that they wanted to go back to Yangon proper.
Instead of taking them back to town, the men persuaded the women to stay in Dala and take a tour in trishaws instead. When the women what the cost of the tour would be, the men said it was free. So they set off on the tour.
The women and their guides visited a pagoda, and then went to the “Tsunami village” – a village with no electricity or running water whose inhabitants claim to be victims of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004.
One of the guides told the women that his father had lived in the village but had died recently. He asked the women to donate rice to the poor villagers. They bought K80,000 worth of rice and donated it to orphans in the village.
After that, the two tourists said they wanted to go back to the city. But when they arrived back at the jetty, the men said the trishaw rides would cost K165,00, even though the women had already been told the rides were free.
The five men surrounded the two women, and the women realized they were being scammed. One of them began filming what was happening on her phone, but when the men saw that, one of them pushed her and swore at her in English.
The women said they couldn’t afford K165,000, so then men said they could pay US$100. The women handed over $100 in cash, but the men said two $20 bills were creased and demanded new ones (without returning the creased bills).
The tourists reported the altercation at the Dala Township police station on July 13. They were accompanied by a tour company employee.
The police arrested Ye Ko on July 13 and Kyaw Min Naing on July 14. The two men confessed to offering scam tours at Mahabandoola Park and said they had worked with five other men: Soe Ko Ko, Aung Ko Win, Angay Lay, Nga Mae and Islam.
Soe Ko Ko, Aung Ko Win, and Angay Lay turned themselves in to the police station on July 14, saying they had been persuaded by Nga Mae and Islam to carry out the scam. Nga Mae and Islam remain at large.
Police charged them men under sections 384 (Extortion), 354 (Assaulting a woman), 294 (Obscene acts), and114 (Abetting) of the Penal Code.
If you ever encounter this scam, contact the Yangon Tourist Police at 110 Pansodan Street (lower block), or call 01378479.