The number of women from Myanmar being trafficked for marriage to Chinese husbands is increasing, according to statistics kept by officials stationed at the Myanmar-China border.
Police Chief Kyaw Nyunt of Myanmar's Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force in Muse District explained that many of the women being trafficked are tricked into crossing the border with promises of a better life, but once they arrive in China, they are at the mercy of traffickers.
"Currently instances of brides being trafficked to China continues to increase," said Kyaw Nyunt.
"They lure [women] in various ways, like [advertising] job opportunities, but in most cases they are sold as brides to Chinese [men]," he said.
Statistics are finalized at the end of the calendar year, but according to the police chief, the trafficking in 2019 is occurring at a faster pace than it was in 2018.
"Last year there were 40 cases last year, and at about this time last year we had 16 cases, but this year we've already had 19 cases," he said.
Most of the trafficked victims are women from Central and Lower Myanmar, which, according to Unicef, are areas where poverty rates are in excess of 30% and reach as high as 46% in the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) region. Kyaw Nyunt said most come from the Yangon region.
"The main cause of trafficking is economic hardship," said Nan Kham Mai, the Vice Chairwoman of the Shan Literature and Culture Association in Muse.
She said that the trafficking situation would be less severe if the economy were better.
"Locals here have advantages with language skills and their ability to travel in and out of the region, so I think [trafficking] could ease a little once the economy gets better and there are more job opportunities. Traffickers usually lure [women away] with jobs, saying there's a wage gap between our country and [China]," she said.
In an effort to educate the public about the dangers in trafficking, Muse district officials and civil society organizations launched their third annual anti-trafficking campaign on Friday, erecting billboards and holding a rally at the border crossing.
"There are [many] cases of human trafficking between Myanmar and China, and women are subjected to violence and forced marriages. We need to protect them," said Maung Maung Win, secretary general of the local YMCA.
"As part of our campaign, we are having public rallies and activities like sports, music and entertainment to get the public to join our movement," he said.
The local YMCA itself has been campaigning against human trafficking for nine years, but the secretary general said that public support and cooperation with authorities and other groups was necessary in order to stop the traffickers.
"We have a better chance to succeed once the government and philanthropic organizations join together," he said.
Reported by Ye Htet for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann. Written in English by Eugene Whong.
Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036