Japan yakuza: How about your mafia magazines, ASEAN?

yaki-1Every business needs to have a handle on communication with their employees, even organized crime syndicates, it now appears. Japanese media has reported that the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest and most notorious of Japan’s yakuza, has launched an 8-page newsletter to boost morale in the ranks of its estimated 28,000 members.

The Yamaguchi-gumi, infamous for cutting of fingers of disloyal members, has in recent years seen its ranks steadily shrink, dropping by 3,300 members in 2012, according to Japan’s National Police Agency figures.

The newly launched Mafioso publication aims to bridge communication gaps in the clan’s netherworlds and include articles on the traditions and opinions of the group, as well as an editorial section penned by the crime syndicate’s “godfather,” 71 year-old Kenichi Shinoda.

In case you are wondering how the newsletter will continue regularly being published without police interference, yakuza like the Yamaguchi-gumi are not illegal in Japan. Although allegedly implicated in internet pornography, stock market manipulation and construction kickbacks, the Yamaguchi-gumi reportedly forbid members from dealing in drug trafficking.

The bold turn taken by the Japanese business (if it can be called that way) begs the question: “Where are the mafia magazines in ASEAN?” Japan already has extensive economic influence in the region and this idea – like so many Japanese cartoons – could spread as well.

Here are some crime syndicates that could follow suit:

Chao Pho, Thailand

Chao Pho is the Thai equivalent of yakuza, an organised crime syndicate, of which some can be legitimate. However, most of these groups are notorious for penetrating local police forces, especially in rural regions, which they use to influence law and order for their benefit. Chao Pho organisations have been reported to interact in drug trade across the Myanmar border, namely involving methamphetamines.

Kuratong Baleleng, Philippines

Organised crime in the Philippines overwhelmingly revolves around the murky world of human trafficking and child prostitution. But the Kuratong Baleleng, the country’s most notorious crime sydicate, has earned different strips. The former anti-communist vigilante group (in direct contract to the New People’s Army) rose to infamy after getting locked in a shootout with police in Manila’s Quezon City in May 1995. The Kuratong Baleleng have strong ties with Maguidanao guerillas, but their ranks have dissolved over the years and spread out across the country, where members engage in kidnapping, extortion, drug trade and illegal gambling, to name a few business lines.

Mamak Gang, Malaysia

Although much less sophisticated than your yakuza-brand business or even Thailand’s Chao Pho, Malaysia’s Mamak Gang could nonetheless do with the added line of communication bred out of newsletters. The gang has been active since the 1990s, currently involved mostly in carjackings and robbing motorists, but have been splintered by Malaysian authorities and pushed to the remote peripheries of the country. Key members have been rounded up by police, but still display control of the gang, managing it from behind bars via mobile phone and couriers. 

About author

Justin Calderon

Justin Calderon is a research analyst for Inside Investor based in Manila, Philippines. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek (Japan), CNN Travel, GlobalPost, Global Times and The Nation (Bangkok). Living in and out of Asia since 2006, Justin spent two years in Shanghai working for a popular B2B magazine. He also hunkered himself down in Taipei for two years to teach English and study traditional Chinese characters. He is a Mandarin and Thai reader and speaker.

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