Child Trafficking Fears Grip Mon State Communities

By Lawi Weng 11 December 2015

RANGOON — Local residents in at least two Mon State townships are on edge amid a series of child disappearances that are being chalked up to human trafficking, with both vigilante and police arrests in recent days as concerned communities seek answers and rumors swirl.

At least eight people were briefly detained on Thursday night for suspected involvement in child trafficking in Thanbyuzayat Township, but police released them the following morning after determining that they were innocent, according to Mon sources.

Kyaw Min Aung, an ethnic Mon and a local reporter from the township’s Than Lwin Times, said he heard that locals in three of the township’s quarters had sought to track down suspected child traffickers. In the quarter where Kyaw Min Aung is resident, Jarkham, eight people were detained by local residents and handed over to police, while it remains unclear whether searches in the other two quarters had turned up alleged traffickers.

Kyaw Min Aung said that according to a police investigation clearing them of any wrongdoing, the eight detained individuals were from Upper Burma and had made their way to Mon State to work in the paddy fields there.

Since last month, there have been at least five child disappearances in Thanbyuzayat Township, the local journalist told The Irrawaddy, while adding that when he went to talk to police in the town on Friday morning, they claimed only one case had formally been filed with authorities.

Nai Mang, another reporter from the Moulmein-based Independent Mon News Agency, said the New Mon State Party (NMSP) also detained three suspected child traffickers on Monday in Mudon Township, where local residents of Yin Taung village first apprehended the three individuals before handing them over to troops from the NMSP, an ethnic armed group.

“Those three people pretended to be dentists and came to the village and asked the people if they wanted teeth treatment. The villagers asked them to show their dental licenses, but then they could not show them, and [the villagers] detained them,” he said.

A female villager from Yin Taung told The Irrawaddy that the NMSP had also released the trio of dentist impersonators after failing to find compelling evidence linking them to human trafficking.

Nai Mang said last month he was showed the abandoned corpse of a child on a rubber farm in Thanbyuzayat Township, but the owner of the plantation was afraid that the crime would be tied back to him, and so did not inform police of the grisly find.

“It was hard to know why the child was killed. The trafficker may have taken a kidney and killed the child, or they may have done something else to the child,” Nai Mang said.

“We should have informed the police, but the plantation owner was afraid of doing this because the dead body was found abandoned in his plantation. So, he kept quiet on this. We don’t even know where the child came from.”