Myanmar Homeowners Arrested After Chinese Migrant Border Raid in Myawaddy

By Htun Htun 16 January 2020

Yangon – The Kayin State authorities will prosecute four homeowners who illegally accommodated Chinese citizens in Myawaddy on the Thai border and a Chinese man who illegally crossed the border, according to the state immigration minister, U Min Ko Khaing.

Myawaddy police and immigration officials inspected houses around the town and briefly detained 31 Chinese citizens, who were found to have valid passports. One Chinese man was deemed to have illegally crossed the border.

“We will file a lawsuit against him and the four homeowners. Foreigners are not allowed to stay in people’s houses,” said U Min Ko Khaing.

The town has seen a surge in Chinese migrants since 2018 after the Border Guard Force (BGF) implemented a city expansion project at Shwe Kokko in partnership with a Chinese firm. The increasing number of casinos near Myawaddy is another pull factor.

Residents have complained about the behavior of Chinese arrivals, asking the state government to check them for valid visas. Civil society organizations are looking to form a group to address the issue.

“Although the government is making inspections, it has not yet taken effective action. The authorities are only checking houses. But there are many [Chinese citizens] who rent entire hotels and stay there. Gambling operations have increased and drug problems have gotten worse,” said a Myawaddy resident who asked for anonymity.

Residents say Chinese citizens have ties to some ethnic armed organizations, making it more difficult to address the issue.

“The BGF also joined the inspection on Wednesday. Some [Chinese citizens] are backed up by ethnic armed organizations. There is no problem if they live and act legally. But lawbreakers should be prosecuted,” said U Thant Zin Aung, a Myawaddy Township state parliamentarian.

In the past few months, the township municipal committee has removed all signs written in Chinese in Myawaddy.

“I have asked [immigration officials] to run inspections in Myawaddy. We also carry out checks on tip-offs. They enter the town with business visas. They have not just come for Shwe Kokko. They work in other places too,” said U Min Ko Khaing.

Since 2017, Myanmar Yatai International Holding Group – formed by the BGF-owned Chit Lin Myaing Co. and the Chinese conglomerate Jilin Yatai Group – has been implementing the city expansion project in Shwe Kokko. The area on the outskirts of Myawaddy is under BGF control.

U Thant Zin Aung said he would monitor whether the government action had been effective, adding that he would cooperate with residents on the issue.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko