Political parties, civil society organizations, and residents of the capital of southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state have decided to form a committee to register and monitor Chinese nationals living illegally in the city amid an increase in criminal activities involving them, locals said Monday.
Anyarthar, a resident of Kayin state’s capital Myawaddy, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the committee will focus on six issues, including registering illegal residents of the city, which serves as an important trading point between Myanmar and neighboring Thailand.
“The number of Chinese has increased exponentially,” he said, noting the growing number of Chinese home renters and shop owners, and vehicles with Chinese license plates.
“We residents of Myawaddy cannot accept this, so we held a meeting on the issue,” he said. “We have agreed to form within a week a committee and issue five demands to the government.”
The groups and residents want the government to enforce laws requiring foreigners to stay only at hotels, to remove Chinese-language signboards from businesses, to check the eligibility of Chinese nationals to work in Myanmar, and to take action against those found to be breaking the law.
The newly formed Myawaddy civilian committee will send its demands to the district administration and Kayin state Chief Minister Nang Khin Htwe Myint.
Some of the thousands of Chinese nationals in Myawaddy employ local armed groups to protect them as they flout the law by staying in local homes and not hotels, driving unregistered vehicles, operating casinos, and working in the illicit narcotics trade, residents said.
Myawaddy resident and attorney Myo Aung said the Chinese appear to be above the law.
“We should have had the right to scrutinize their status since they first arrived, but our local residents, and even the authorities from the police force and immigration department, are not in a position to scrutinize them,” he said.
"The law does not appear to apply to them,” he added.
Major Naing Maung Zaw from the region’s Border Guard Force told RFA that border police are not protecting Chinese citizens who break Myanmar’s laws.
“We are now working with the local police force, immigration officials, and senior citizens to check illegal foreigners,” he said. “If they are breaking the immigration laws, officials will take legal action against them. We will only only cooperate with them [police] in a supporting role.”
Naing Maung Zaw said not all incidents involving Chinese nationals in Myawaddy are referred to the Border Guard Force.
During a brawl involving drunken Chinese nationals and some Myawaddy residents on Sept. 13, police arrested five people involved in the incident, while two others are on the run, he said by way of example.
“We are working to take legal action against them as well as those who live in Myawaddy illegally,” said deputy police commander Thet Lin Oo from the Myawaddy district police force.
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.