By SAW YAN NAING
The Irrawaddy News
About 200 Burmese job seekers in Kawthaung, a border town in southern Burma, were arrested in the past five days following a human smuggling crackdown by local authorities.
Those arrested were staying in hotels believed to be used by people seeking to enter Thailand or Malaysia illegally. Nine people believed to be involved in organizing human smuggling were also arrested, according to sources in Kawthaung.
One hotel owner, his wife and a manager were reportedly arrested, along with six other people believed to be involved in human smuggling.
A crackdown on human smuggling has been underway since the repatriation of dozens of Burmese migrant workers who survived a human smuggling incident in which 54 Burmese migrant workers suffocated when being transported to work in Thailand, according to sources in Kawthaung. Sixty-seven people survived the incident.
The crackdown order was said to have come from Naypyidaw under the direction of the Burmese premier, Gen Thein Sein, said one source.
Maung Tu, a local businessman who is close to Burmese authorities and the business community, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, “The authorities are cracking down on hotels at night. The owner of one hotel was arrested. Some smugglers and traffickers are now running away to avoid arrests.”
Another resident in Kawthaung said, “The arrests are increasing. Speed boats are also being prevented from crossing the border.”
Three hotels in Kawthaung are widely believed to be involved in human smuggling operations, sources say.
Owners of hotels in Kawthaung have reportedly received a warning from Min Aye Lwin, the chairman of the Province Peace and Development Council, not to accept travelers who are seeking to enter countries illegally.
Kawthaung is a popular site used by Burmese migrant workers who try to enter Thailand and Malaysia illegally. As many as 100 people a day are believed to be illegally transported into Thailand and Malaysia from Kawthaung.
Many local Burmese authorities are involved in human smuggling, say Kawthaung residents.