YANGON — A Yangon court held its first hearing on Wednesday in the case of 17 Chinese women arrested at a beauty parlor allegedly operating as a brothel in South Okkalapa Township on suspicion of being sex workers.
Acting on a tip, police raided the Oriental Spa, on Waizayandar Street, on the morning of May 22.
“The plaintiff was cross-examined today,” the township’s police chief, Captain Shwe Htay, said Wednesday.
Police have filed charges against the women under Article 3 (a) and (b) of the 1949 Suppression of Prostitution Law. They have also filed charges against 10 others, including staff and the Chinese owner and manager of the establishment, under Article 5 (1), which covers pimping.
The charges carry jail terms of between one and three years in jail with hard labor.
The owner remains at large, but police have identified him and seized his passport. Cpt. Shwe Htay said police are confident he has not left the country via an airport.
He said the next hearing was scheduled for June 20, and that the Chinese Embassy has not contacted police about the Chinese women who were arrested.
“All of them have passports and visas, and their visas are business visas. They officially entered the country by air,” Cpt. Shwe Htay said.
The police had initially reported that the women did not have passports or visas.
U Myint Than, a lawyer for three female Myanmar nationals also on trial, said the women, from Shan State, saw Oriental Spa’s job advertisement on social media and had been working there for only a couple of days when they were arrested and accused of pimping under Article 5 (1).
Ma Nwe New San, a clerk for Oshin, a cleaning service, said three men also arrested on May 22 were employees of the company and were cleaning the beauty parlor when police showed up.
“We are a cleaning service. They were doing overtime that day. They started cleaning around midnight and were arrested as they were about to leave after doing their job,” she said.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.