Naypyitaw — Myanmar’s authorities have detained nearly 900 illegal Chinese immigrants since January, mostly in Shan State, according to the President’s Office.
Government spokesman U Zaw Htay said 863 Chinese citizens — 805 men and 58 women — were detained this year until Sept. 29 with most seeking jobs.
He said 687 of them are economic migrants, 49 were gambling, 11 were illegally mining coal, two illegally married women in Myanmar and 21 violated visa regulations. Others worked in agriculture, construction and jade trading and two were arrested at the request of the Chinese Embassy.
U Zaw Htay at a press conference last month was evasive about what action would be taken against illegal immigrants.
“Most of them were charged under the Immigration Act. Article 13(1) of the act only prescribes a light penalty. Some Chinese citizens who engage in illegal logging are only charged under the Immigration Act. But on most occasions, they were just fined and deported,” said a police officer from Naypyitaw, who does not want to be named.
Article 13(1) of the Immigration Act carries a prison sentence of between six months and five years.
Most of those detained only served around one month in prison, while Rohingya who illegally crossed the Bangladesh border back into northern Rakhine State were given six months in prison, said the officer.
“The popular destination for Chinese job seekers is Myawaddy [in Karen State]. But as Muse is the only major border crossing, most of them enter through Muse and are arrested there. Some are also arrested in Lashio and Myawaddy, which is often their final destination” said the officer.
Chinese immigrants were often heading to work at Myawaddy’s Shwe Kokko new city project, sometimes known as China Town, being built with Chinese investment and its illegal casinos and gambling dens.
In July, a joint military and security services taskforce raided an illegal casino on the Thai border at Myawaddy and arresting four Chinese gamblers.
Myanmar’s military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said between 70 and 100 illegal Chinese immigrants had been arrested since January.
“Some of them were arrested [for visa violations] in drug busts and others were arrested at military checkpoints. We hand them all to the police,” he said.
In 12 regions and states including Naypyitaw, Sagaing, Yangon, Bago, Tanintharyi and Mandalay regions and Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Karen states, there were 191 cases of illegal Chinese migration.
A court in China’s Yunnan Province sentenced 20 migrant workers from Myanmar, who illegally entered the province in March and June, to between one and six years in prison.
When six illegal workers from Myanmar tested positive for COVID-19 in early September on the Chinese side of the border, China imposed a lockdown on Ruili and suspended border trade.
Former parliamentarian U Ye Htun of Shan State said: “The current government has to be afraid of China. It does not speak openly. A former President’s Office minister, U Aung Min, said the previous government was afraid of China. As he is a blunt talker, he revealed openly that the previous government was afraid of China.”
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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