Arrests have been made in the case of a teenager trafficked in late November by a relative from a tea shop in Myanmar’s Mandalay and taken to a town along the border with China, though authorities have yet to find the victim, police officials said.
The 14-year-old from Kin village in Mingon township, Sagaing region, was trafficked to Muse in northern Shan state by an aunt who abducted her in Mandalay, where the girl worked.
A video posted to a Facebook page used by Myanmar migrant workers in China on Nov. 26 shows the girl crying and describes her as being forcibly brought into the country.
The girl's mother said that when she talked to the aunt, who lives in Mandalay’s Amarapura township, days before the video surfaced, she was told that her daughter was fine.
“I asked her if my daughter was OK and where she was living,” said Cho, the girl’s mother who only gave one name.
“She said she was fine and that she would get her salary at the end of the month,” Cho said.
“I stayed quiet when she said my daughter was happy and was doing well,” she added. “After three or four days, I learned about the video.”
No one has been able to reach the teenager’s aunt, Mu San, at her home or by phone since Cho last spoke with her.
Cho filed a missing person case at the Amarapura Township Police Station and with the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force at the Aung Pinle Police Station.
On Dec. 13, police arrested three suspects believed to be involved in the trafficking of the teenager to the China-Myanmar border area.
The police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force team No. 11 in Mandalay announced the arrests a couple of weeks after RFA’s Myanmar Service broke the story, which reached millions of viewers on Facebook.
The task force's Police Major Myo Zin told RFA that three men, who were apprehended at the 16 Mile Inspection Gate along the Muse-Mandalay highway, said they didn’t know the girl’s whereabouts.
“The girl is with the group [of migrants workers] who are said to have rescued her,” he said. “We assumed that she must be in one of the factories, but they said they don’t know where she is and that they are also looking for her.”
“We’ve got no information about the group that rescued her,” Myo Zin added. “She must be in one of the factories related to the rescuers.”
The girl is believed to be with someone named Kyaw Kyaw, who posted the Nov. 26 video and an appeal for her rescue on Facebook. The post titled “A girl has been trafficked. Her aunt is an accomplice” appeared under a Facebook group called “Meeting point of Myanmar citizens in China – Important news and job opportunities.”
The teenager’s mother declined to comment on the latest status report about her daughter.
Cho previously told RFA that she hopes her daughter will return.
“Some say it is hopeless,” Cho said. “I was so stupid to let her go. My daughter is a pretty girl. Please help me find her.”
‘Challenging to capture them’
Police Major Kyaw Nyunt from the Muse district Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force told RFA in May that there had been an increasing number of human trafficking cases in the China-Myanmar border area.
Those who violate Myanmar’s 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law prohibiting sex and labor trafficking face sentences of 10 years to life in prison.
Despite the law’s stringent criminal penalties, human trafficking remains rampant in conflict-affected northern Shan state along the border with China and in other states and regions where a dearth of income-earning opportunities places woman at risk of being trafficked.
Police Major Myo Zin from the Mandalay task force meanwhile warned of brokers in Myanmar who procure young women for human traffickers in China.
“We have learned about them over time, but it is very challenging to capture them,” he told RFA. “We have signed a memorandum of understating for bilateral cooperation with China, but China is a really vast country. If we cannot provide specific information, they cannot respond to anything.”
As many as 80 percent of human-trafficking cases originate with victims in Mandalay region, and the number is growing, according to police officials.
There were 14 such cases in 2016, 18 in 2017, and 28 cases in 2018, with young women being sold to Chinese men as wives for an average of 20 million kyats (U.S. $13,121) each, they said.
Reported by Khaymani Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.