Websites Sell Burmese Brides to Chinese Bachelors

A screenshot of the “Burmese Bride Matching” website

A screenshot of the “Burmese Bride Matching” website

Frustrated by a lack of local marriage prospects, Chinese farmers are now turning to an easy, illegal tactic for finding wives: going online and ordering them from neighboring Burma.

In China, where a longstanding one-child policy and sex-selective abortions have led to an unequal balance of men and women in the population, the demand for foreign wives is high. Male farmers, in particular, often struggle to marry local women because they cannot afford to pay the traditional dowry, and trafficking brides from Burma appears to be a more affordable alternative.

“Getting married to Chinese women is too expensive,” Yi Heliang, a Chinese farmer who bought a Burmese wife six years ago, told The Irrawaddy last week. “Burmese brides are cheap, so we [farmers] like to buy them.”

According to a report by the Burmese government last year, about 70 percent of trafficking in Burma was “committed solely with the intention of forcing girls and women into marriages with Chinese men.”

Yi Heliang lives with his Burmese wife and their daughter in a village near the Burmese border. He says he paid 5,000 yuan (US $800) for his marriage, compared to the traditional dowry price of 10,000 yuan for a Chinese bride.

He didn’t use a trafficking website, but as rural farmers continue to gain access to the Internet, this strategy seems to have become more common.

A recent online search by The Irrawaddy for “Burmese brides” yielded hundreds of results, including a website called “Burmese Bride Matching” which is not shy about advertising its purpose.

“Hello, bachelors!” the website’s home page reads. “Are you struggling to start a family? Are you getting frustrated by your nonexistent sex life? Want to be loved by someone?

“Even if you’re poor and a farmer, Burmese brides will be delighted to stay with you forever.”

‘Cheaper, Prettier and Easier’

Like many bride-trafficking websites, “Burmese Bride Matching” includes photographs of women for sale. The photos are posted on a page called “Product Display,” with contact information available for interested buyers.

When called by The Irrawaddy, a man facilitating the transactions said it was possible to purchase one of the women from the photos.
“You need to pay 8,000 yuan for an introduction [to the woman], and another 5,000 yuan to her family as a dowry,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another trafficker, associated with a separate website, quoted similar prices.

“Burmese wives are much better” than Chinese wives, said the trafficker, who called himself a “Chinese bachelor saver.”

Some websites will only sell to men who meet certain requirements. On “Burmese Bride Matching,” for example, customers must be “single, honest and good tempered,” with “no natural prejudices” or bad habits such as gambling.

In practice, however, activists say forced marriages often lead to a system of modern slavery.

“Once the Burmese women become wives, they are forced to bear children for their husbands,” said Moon Nay Li, coordinator of the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT), which has spent years studying human trafficking in Burma’s northernmost Kachin State.

She said husbands often restrict the movement of their wives, adding that “in some cases, the women are forced to work during the day and become sex slaves at night.”

In China’s Yunnan Province, most trafficked wives were between the ages of 14 and 20, according to Li Shunqiong, who leads the province’s anti-trafficking team. The oldest trafficked woman was 57 years old, he said, while the youngest was only 11.

Sometimes women are pulled from prior marriages in Burma. In a report by the KWAT in 2008, the last year the group released a study on this issue, more than 10 percent of trafficked women were already married.

The group is set to release an updated report about human trafficking next month.

Chinese Demand

Chinese demand for foreign wives is widely believed to result from Beijing’s one-child policy and the practice of aborting female fetuses.

“This has caused a shortage of women to marry, and men are paying up to $3,500 to traffickers for wives,” said Moon Nay Li of the Kachin group.

Chinese government figures released in June showed the East Asian country of 1.3 billion people had about 117 men for every 100 women. By 2020, single Chinese men could number 30 million, it said.

For bachelors in remote parts of the country, marriage prospects seem especially poor.

“My father is a farmer and my mother is a farmer, and Chinese women won’t marry me because I can’t afford a nice car and a house,” said a man who claimed to have bought a Burmese wife two year ago.

According to the United Nations, Burmese women are often trafficked to the southern Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Fujian, Henan, Sichuan and Anhui. Others are taken to eastern provinces, particularly Shandong, according to reports by nongovernmental organizations.

In addition to forced marriages, some Burmese women choose to travel abroad to China, hoping to escape tough living conditions in Southeast Asia’s poorest country.

Last year, in a report on human trafficking around the world, the US Department of State reported that some trafficking cases “may have involved Burmese women voluntarily working with brokers to attempt to cross into China, with the understanding that they would be married to Chinese men.”

In other cases, women went to find jobs in China and were then sold against their will to Chinese men for marriage.

“More and more Kachin women are migrating to China in search of work, and are ending up as forced brides of Chinese men,” the KWAT said in its 2008 report.

Lack of Transparency

It is unknown exactly how many Burmese women are trafficked into China annually.

According to the US report last year, the Burmese regime said it investigated 173 cases of trafficking in 2010 and convicted 234 offenders.

However, the report said international organizations and nonprofits could not verify this information. In Burma, “limited capacity and training of the police, coupled with the lack of transparency in the justice system, make it uncertain whether all trafficking statistics provided by authorities were indeed for trafficking crimes,” the report said.

Moon Nay Li said it was becoming more difficult to identify how many Burmese women had been trafficked, due to ongoing fighting between the Burmese government and ethnic rebels that has displaced thousands of people internally. “But the number is definitely growing,” she said.

In 2009, the Chinese government signed a memorandum of understanding with Burma’s former military regime to tackle the problem, but Moon Nay Li said efforts to stop trafficking required more funding and support.

Also, in 2009, China’s Ministry of Public Security set up special offices in Yunnan Province to combat the cross-border trafficking of women and children.

KWAT says these efforts are not sufficient.

“The Chinese government has sentenced some traffickers to life in prison, and that’s a good sign,” said Naung Latt, a coordinator of the Kachin group.

“But to really make an impact, China needs to deal with its corruption problem,” Naung Latt added, saying traffickers could bribe Chinese police officers if they were caught.

“There’s also an urgent need [for Burma’s government] to provide support for community-based initiatives to raise awareness about trafficking, and to provide services to women and girls who have been trafficked from Burma.”

10 Responses to Websites Sell Burmese Brides to Chinese Bachelors

  1. Evidently supply and demand in play with middlemen making a lot of  money out of it. China’s policy and dowry custom on one hand, Burma’s dire poverty on the other. Merely tinkering with the issue and picking up the pieces will not solve the problem, that’s for sure. 

  2. Life’s got to be pretty bad if you agree to marry a Chinese backwater farmer.  They’ve been selling north Korean girls in China for a decade.  Certainly a subject that warrants an investigation [which will never come].

    •  you have never been to Burma or China’s poor villages have you?  Just put yourself in this situation, doing the same thing everyday just to survive just for one day and do it again the next day with no benefit or no knowledge of when this will end.  This situation applies to the Chinese backwater farmer.

  3.  what is the connection there??????????????????

    • Hi Thin Thin,
      Here is a relationship.. Chinese or Rohingya doesn’t matter.. Burmese need to protect their sisters and mothers if they are patriotic enough. Blaming Chinese or Rohingya will not bear any fruits.[In fact if you look carefully, there is very rare intermarriage ( almost non existence)  between Rakhine and Rohingya ( or you can say Bengali from Rakine State) due to racial and religious sensitivity.Both races are ultra fanatics.  Rakhines, usually proud of their race, seldom marry Burmese or other ethnics too.] Rohingyas are very conservative in to marry others.
      1.    Htun Khin says:
      November 13, 2012 at 8:19 am In Myanmar, Buddhists, Christian, Hindu and Muslims live peacefully altogether throughout the history but yes, there are some tensions among the Buddhists and the Muslims in the society. You know why? Unlike Chinese who also migrate from China, most of Muslims in Myanmar seems to be out of the society. They do not respect the values of Myanmar society. They do not participate Myanmar festivals. They never come to Buddhist monasteries and Christian Churches. They also do not allow any Buddhists or Christians to enter into their mosques. On the other hands, Buddhists can visit Christian Churches or Hindu temples at any time and vice versa. Many Muslims who live in cities are rich in Myanmar. They intentionally hire poor Burmese and ethnic girls as their home-maids or as their business staff. Then they (Muslim employers) feed them (Burmese and ethnic girls) well and they (Muslim employers) urge their Muslim staff to marry to the girls who are not Muslims. Many Burmese girls are poor so they became the wives of Muslims. Being the wives of Muslims they have to wear Muslim black-grown. They have to follow the Muslim practice. They cannot go out easily without the permission of their husbands. From our point of views, this is the violation of women’ rights. In the past, they can work or go freely as they are Buddhists or Christians but they have now lost their freedom of movement. People think that Muslim religious leaders are intentionally urge their followers to take non-Muslim girls to increase the population of Muslims in Myanmar. I do not know if it is true or not but it is true that people in Myanmar will never accept the Rohingya as a part of the Myanmar society. They may live in Myanmar but they will have to follow Myanmar’s practice. As ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard from Australia said, the Rohingya who wanted to live in Myanmar must adjust their lives in accordance with the value of Myanmar tradition. Take it or Leave
      2.    KML says:
      November 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm Hi HHtun“Then they (Muslim employers) feed them (Burmese and ethnic girls) well and they (Muslim employers) urge their Muslim staff to marry to the girls who are not Muslims.”I tend to agree your statement. The good point is that at least those Muslim men marry those girls. Marrying is a blessing for any girl if the husband takes care as a wife. Other wise those girls will end up as commercial sex workers, sex slaves and drug addicts in the Thai-Burma borders. Buddhism as well as Islam does not encourage promiscuous sex.If you are patriotic, please prevent our Burmese girls from contracting HIV AIDS. There are tens of thousands in the neighbouring country. You should better focus on those rather than fuelling existing hostilities among Muslims and other Burmese.Please use your knowledge and resources to develop the country in stead of beating about the bush.

      • Dear kml 2013, you didn’t answer my question.  adam_onge asked who was worse for Burma, Chinese or Rohingya?  So I still ask what is the connection there?  You said that either one will not bear any fruits yet you included muslim employers and employing poor Burmese girls.  Isn’t this good for that poor girl who is able to provide something for her family?  So Rohingya is better for Burma.  I know that any girl marries into any other race or religion she will be subjected to all kinds of rules and regulations of whichever race that she marries into.  I don’t have an answer or solution for these so called conservative or proud or whatever sensitivity to change their thinkings.  Even as I get older some of your so called conservative, proud thinkings or teachings still with me.  That’s is definitely no good.  I am not particularly fond of those people who are proud of their race or religion by following these strict rules and regulations.  All they are saying is that DO AS I SAY BUT NOT AS I DO.  Let me ask you another question.  What if a Rohingya girl marries into a Burmese or buddhist and has to follow the Burmese culture or buddhism?  When she follows strictly to the Burmese culture or buddhism, does she become a good little Burmese girl/wife or is she being denied of her basic human rights?  She may not have to follow her husband or ask permission to go somewhere but you and I don’t know how she is being treated inside the house that she is living with her husband’s parents, brothers, sisters and so on.  It’s a two way street.  It’s easy to blame or criticize anybody that they don’t want to adjust or adapt to the ways of adopted country with one sided thinking.  Maybe they already saw your writing on the wall.  I always think that buddhism is one of the more understanding religions than other ones.  I guess it still is only the people who practice this religion interpret the teaching are bad.  Maybe we should read or understand other teaching of religions instead of expecting other to understand our culture and religion.  What do you think?????????????????

    • connection to what? Rohingyas and Chinese?

  4.  you are an idealistic.

  5. I’ve got an idea for the burmese government. Why don’t they smuggle the rohingya women to china? Without women, the rohingya high reproduction rate will be severely restricted, and at the same time, the rohingya men will have to leave burma and travel back to India or Bangladesh wherever they came from to find a wife. If the burmese government can prevent them from re-entry, the size of rohingya population will become even smaller. Then, burmese can’t be blamed genocide because none of these involves systematic killing or torture or forcible relocation.

  6. What’s worse for Burma?
    Rohingyas or Chinese?
    An honest answer please
    (and don’t censor my comment as you have done!)
    Free speech in Burma? (except if you are anti-Chinese!)

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