Mandalay – Police on Friday charged two men under the overseas employment law for attempting to illegally send a group of 52 workers, including five women, to China.
The workers, all from Myingyan District, were detained on Wednesday at the Ohn Chaw checkpoint on the Mandalay-Lashio Highway on the outskirts of Mandalay, as they were being sent to Guangzhou in southern China.
“We’ve arrested Kyaw Soe Lin and Aung Lin from Myingyan for working as employment agents without a business license for overseas employment and sending workers abroad illegally,” Police Lieutenant Zaw Myint told The Irrawaddy.
The two men are currently being detained at the central prison in Mandalay as police continue their investigation.
Police told The Irrawaddy that each of the workers paid about 500,000 kyats to the agents, who promised to find them work with a furniture factory in Guangzhou, where they could earn 8 yuan (US$1.25/1,670 kyat) per hour.
“We received a tip-off about human trafficking and checked the bus. Then we found out the workers were about to be sent cross the border illegally,” explained Police Lieutenant Zaw Myint from the Ohn Chaw police station. “They have no passports and no proper employment documents. If something happened to them at their destination, there would be no one to help them.”
The police officer said that even though the workers were not being trafficked, they still faced employment security risks and being arrested for entering another country illegally.
“We explained to them that they could be arrested in a foreign country and there would be no one to help them for they have no proper documents. We’ve told them not to trust the agents so easily and not to just see the money,” he said, adding that the workers had been sent back to their homes in Myinchan on Thursday and asked to spread word of their experience to others.
Lack of employment opportunities and low salaries in Myanmar encourage local workers to seek work in factories and on plantations in neighboring countries such as China and Thailand.
According to police, the incident on Wednesday was the first such large-scale one Mandalay in recent year.
In 2007, police were able to stop two girls who are about to be trafficked to China, and return them to their parents.
“There have been at least five incidents of people being trafficked and being sent illegally to work in China that were halted here at Ohn Chaw. However, this is the first time in several years we’ve found such a large group,” the police lieutenant said.
In contrast, he said, there was at least one such incident every day in Muse on the Myanmar–China border, with Chinese authorities sending back workers who had crossed the border illegally.
“In Muse, Myanmar workers are being handed over to us almost every day. When we check, we find they were cheated by illegal agents who promised them they would get jobs in China. We are trying to educate the locals, but the locals also need to open their eyes and ears, not just focus on the money,” Zaw Myint said.