UWSA Hands 2 Suspected Human Traffickers to Myanmar Police

By Lawi Weng 22 July 2019

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) on Saturday handed two women accused of human trafficking to police officers from Pegu Division who traveled to Lashio, northern Shan State, to take them into custody, according to local sources.

Nyi Rang, a spokesperson for the UWSA based in Lashio, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the armed group arrested the two female human trafficking suspects as requested by Myanmar police.

“For us, our only duty was to arrest them,” said Nyi Rang, who referred requests for further details about the trafficking allegation to the Myanmar police.

The UWSA controls the Wa Self-Administered Division in northern Shan State. Nyi Rang said reports of human trafficking are not uncommon in the region.

Myanmar police first asked the UWSA liaison office in Lashio to arrest the two women, who were wanted for alleged involvement in human trafficking and were staying in Panghsang, the capital of the Wa region.

“We asked our police in Panghsang to arrest them,” said Nyi Rang, who posted a photo of UWSA troops handing over the two detainees to Myanmar police in Lashio on July 20.

Myanmar police sent letters to the UWSA on July 2 describing the women’s alleged trafficking of a woman from Taungoo District in Pegu Division.

The two detainees allegedly told the woman from Pegu that they could get her a well-paid job in China. According to documents obtained by the Myanmar Police and shared with the UWSA liaison office in Lashio, the two detainees then took the victim to Lashio.

The two detainees then allegedly trafficked the victim to a “KTV” brothel owned by one of the women. The victim was reportedly forced into sex work at the brothel and told she had to work off a debt of 3,000 Chinese yuan (about 662,680 kyats or US$435).

According to the document, the victim’s family had paid back 200,000 kyats of the “debt” the owner claimed she was owed.

The two detainees are also from Taungoo district in Pegu Division. Police in Taungoo opened cases against them after being contacted by the victim’s family.

U Aye Soe, an anti-human trafficking police officer based in Taungoo, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that, “We firstly worked to rescue the victim. After she was rescued, we asked her for details of how she was trafficked. Then, we opened cases against the traffickers.”

“She [the victim] told us that one of the people who trafficked her also worked at the KTV. So we asked the [UWSA] to arrest both the traffickers, including the owner of the KTV,” he added.

So far this year there have been eight cases of human trafficking reported in Lashio according to U Min Naing, a police officer in the town and a member of the anti-human trafficking police based in northern Shan State.

The town of Muse on the Chinese border has the highest rate of human trafficking in northern Shan State, said U Min Naing, adding that most cases were women from Myanmar being trafficked to China as brides for Chinese men.

A report in 2018 from the Myanmar Anti-Human Trafficking Police said there were 1,609 cases of human trafficking involving 3,850 victims from 2006 through 2017, with 4,556 perpetrators being arrested. Most of the cases involved trafficking to China.

It is believed that in Myanmar, as in other countries, most trafficking cases go unreported.

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