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Story Publication logo August 29, 2013

Burma: Human Trafficking in Kachin

Image by Lusha Chen. Myanmar, 2013.

When a Burmese woman marries a Chinese man, she may give up basic human rights. Yet many Burmese...

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Internal conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and Burmese government has displaced 120,000 people. Ten thousand Kachin now live near the Chinese border—and often exposed to human trafficking. Image by Lusha Chen. Burma, 2013.

In 2011, the Burmese Army renewed its fighting with the Kachin Independence Army to secure areas around the lucrative energy projects in which China has invested.

The conflict has lasted for two years, and more than 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kachin-controlled areas fled to camps near China's border. In total, about 120,000 persons have been displaced.

According to the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT), large-scale displacement, lack of refugee protection, shortages of humanitarian aid and easy access to national boundaries have fueled widespread human trafficking inside Kachin.

Because of the short distance to China, Kachin is a prime area for human trafficking. Kachin women are trafficked to Chinese bachelors as wives. Once in China, they become stateless.

Jet Len Yang, 19, a Kachin girl living in Maijayang, was trafficked to Fujian Province in east China when she was 14. She was sold to a 21-year-old Chinese man for RMB 20,000 ($3,000) by a trafficker. She escaped the day before her wedding ceremony.

Bawk Nu, 20, was injected with a drug while taking a bus from China to Kachin in 2012. She felt dizzy and woke up in a room with seven girls locked inside. She escaped 20 days later, but does not remember details of her captivity.

Forced to leave their homes and livelihoods behind, IDPs become dependent on donations and aid. The average monthly salary among IDP camp residents is less than $10. With little or no cultivable land and no wage labor on the Kachin side of the border, the only way for IDPs to earn money is to seek work in China. According to KWAT, many turn to traffickers in the hope of escaping poverty.

Without access to contraception, Kachin women usually average six to seven children in a family. When husbands are required to serve in the front line during wartime, mothers often cross to China to seek jobs where they can be tricked into selling their children.

Education, too, has been disrupted. An estimated 45 percent of the Kachin IDP children under age 16 were forced to leave schools in their home villages because of the war. Although Kachin authorities are planning to open more schools, the shortages of teachers and school facilities has meant that classes are crowded. And due to very limited resources, camps are reluctant to provide secondary education. IDP children have to travel miles away from homes for high school. Most Kachin girls start work at age fourteen.

Kachin girls dream of becoming restaurant waitresses in China where they can earn at least $180 every month. Many "introducers" trap Kachin girls into working in China—another form of human trafficking.

Though a cease-fire agreement has been signed by both sides, the Burmese government has shunned the Kachin anti-trafficking plan. Meanwhile the Chinese government refuses to become involved in what it calls "other countries' business."



Three women grouped together: an elderly woman smiling, a transwoman with her arms folded, and a woman holding her headscarf with a baby strapped to her back.


Gender Equality

Gender Equality

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