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Prostitution Of Women in Burma

According to a report in the major Thai newspaper The Nation (September 24, 1991), Dr. Saisuree Chutikul of the Thai government has expressed concern about the increasing number of Burmese women lured or tricked into Thailand to work as prostitutes. At a meeting with the wife of Burma’s Public Health Minster, Dr. Saisuree said, “I asked the minister’s wife to tell her husband to think about how concerned Burmese officials can stop the flow of Burmese women coming to Thailand for prostitution. The women will not only be arrested for entering without a permit, but they are also likely to get AIDS.”

Burma’s deteriorating economy is forcing tens of thousands of Burmese people to leave the country. Among those entering Thailand illegally are thousands of women, some as young as 13 or 14. Some are lured into brothels with the promise of good money while others are sold by Burmese gangs to Thai gangs. In the southern Thai border city of Ranong alone, there are more than 1,000 Burmese women in the brothels, including many Mon and Karen ethnic minorities.

A human rights worker recently reported from Ranong that about 10 young women from Burma are sold across the border every day. They are as young as 16 and are sold for prices of about 17,000 baht (US $64O). Most of the women come from villages inside Burma and have little education. Their ability to read and write Burmese is limited, and they have no Thai language training. He further reported that Burmese military and police are often involved in trading deals with Burmese and Thai gangs. Soldiers and police at Victory Point (on the Burmese side of the border) receive substantial sums of money from the gangs and so make no arrests or interference.

The report goes on to state that some of the young women are killed and their bodies dumped into the sea if they are found to have any disease. They are moved from place to place if the brothel owners suspect that they have made any outside contacts for help. This suspicion can also result in the woman’s murder, or her being sent to the Malaysian border, where she is more isolated from possible help.

Many of these young women have already contracted AIDS. If they are discovered, they are quickly sent back to Burma, where little treatment is available. Without immediate action on the part of Burmese authorities, AIDS will spread rapidly in Burma.

Women who are arrested in Thailand as prostitutes or simply as illegal refugees report that they are raped by local police before being released. Few of them want to speak of this in public, which makes it difficult to follow up cases and press charges. Present investigations of one such case in Maesod is under way, and several reports have arrived from Sangklaburi of similar rapes.

Women in the rural areas who stay inside Burma also face hardships. The Burmese military uses rape and murder against the ethnic minorities. Many women, including pregnant women, are forced by the Burmese military to act as porters, carrying heavy loads of food and weapons to the front lines. These women porters are sometimes forced to walk in the front of military columns in order to detonate mines or booby traps.

(from B.U.R.M.A.—Burma Rights Movement for Action, October 1991 newsletter, P.O. Box 1076, Silom Post Office, Bangkok 10504 Thailand)

From the 1949 United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons_: “Prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the individual, the family and the community.”_