Thursday, 15 October 2009

Burmese Migrants Beaten, Arrested in China

Irrawaddy news, 14 Oct 2009
Chinese police have been cracking down recently on illegal Burmese migrant workers with beatings commonplace and about 50 migrants arrested every day, according to sources on the Sino-Burmese border.
The crackdown started around Sept. 25. Several detained migrants have alleged they were badly beaten and were charged 300 yuan (US $44) for their release. Immediately after their release, the Burmese migrants were forcibly repatriated, said the sources.

Ma Grang, a merchant in the Chinese border town of Ruili, said he met with a factory worker named Myo Win and his friend who claimed they were badly beaten by the Chinese police, and have since returned to Burma.  

“They were beaten with batons on their back, legs and chest. I saw the bruises,” said Ma Grang.  “Myo Win was not able to work for a few days.”
He said that Chinese police did not systematically beat up illegal Burmese migrant workers in the past.
“However, this time, they are treating the migrants brutally,” he said.
He added that Burmese migrant workers in Ruili—a border town in southwestern Yunnan Province which lies opposite the Burmese town of Muse—are currently living in fear and dare not go outside their living quarters.

Awng Wa, a source on the Sino-Burmese border, confirmed that the Chinese authorities had increased restrictions on migrating or visiting Burmese people.
In the past, Burmese people could cross the border and stay in Ruili for more than a week at a time. With the current crackdown, Burmese are only allowed to stay on Chinese soil for seven days. Anyone violating the rule is fined 600 yuan ($88), he said.

Sources in Ruili speculated that the police crackdown had been initiated to prevent the flow of illegal Burmese migrant workers into China. Others, however, claimed the Chinese were responding to attacks by Burmese government troops against ethnic Kokang and Han Chinese migrants in Burma in August.
During the Burmese government attacks, about 37,000 ethnic Kokang—who are widely considered to be ethnic Han Chinese—and first-generation Chinese migrants had to flee from Laogai in Burma across the Chinese border. Many Chinese reported that they had lost their businesses as a consequence.

An estimated 90 percent of businesses in Laogai are—or were—owned by Chinese businesspeople. 
Ma Grang said many businessmen in Ruili have suggested that the crackdown against Burmese migrants is a reciprocal gesture because of what happened to Chinese people in Burma recently.

Awng Wa told The Irrawaddy he believed both motives were in play—the Chinese police were cracking down on Burmese in revenge for the Laogai seizure, and to curtail the number of migrants crossing into Yunnan Province, he said.

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