YANGON – Police confirmed that 17 young Chinese sex workers had been arrested at a beauty parlour allegedly operating as a front for an illegal prostitution business in South Okkalapa Township’s Waizayandar Street on Tuesday.
Yangon Region police spokesman Maj. Hla Wai declined to provide further details about the arrest, such as the name of the owner of the beauty salon or the nationalities of the suspects. According to state-run newspapers, police, acting on a tip-off, raided the Oriental Spa at around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, catching an alleged prostitute, identified as Ms. Li Teng, 22, providing sexual services to a client. The report stated that Li Teng is from San Jia, a village in southeast China’s Guangdong province.
According to police, the spa was equipped with some 18 bathrooms and massage rooms. After searching every room, police found another young Chinese woman, Tao Lian, 18, who along with 15 other young Chinese women, was allegedly waiting for customers. The police confiscated sexual wellness products, at least 34 million kyats, about USD6,500 and 11,700 yuan from the beauty parlour’s manager, Mr. Feng Anxin, and 10 staff members, some of whom are believed to be Myanmar nationals. The police report says the manager did not hold a valid visa or passport but officers are “still investigating” to identify the real owner of the business.
“We are still trying to identify the origins of the remaining suspects,” Police Maj. Hla Wai said.
The police statement did not mention whether the Chinese women were working as prostitutes of their own volition or whether they were victims of human trafficking. It was also unclear whether the 17 women held valid passports. The statement noted that police had filed charges against the suspects under the 1949 Suppression of Prostitution Law’s Articles 3 (a,b) and 5 (1). The law was amended during the time of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government but both Articles 3 and 5 still stipulate between one- to five-year prison terms for the offence of prostitution.
Regional legislator U Moe Myint of South Okkalapa Constituency (2) told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Thursday that the beauty parlour had been operating in his township for about one year and the owner was believed to be Chinese. The lawmaker said he had limited information about the suspects and was still seeking details from the authorities.
The surprise arrest of the Chinese sex workers went viral on Facebook with netizens dubbing the situation as “Chinese take over the Myanmar ladies market.” Myanmar’s commercial cities Yangon and Mandalay were ranked by Care International 2015 survey as the having the largest numbers of female sex workers in the country.