An ethnic Kachin women’s group says it is seeking to rescue numerous women it believes are victims of human trafficking who left to work in China and whose whereabouts are now unknown.

Ja Awng, a member of the Kachin Women’s Association based on the China-Burma border, said the KWA will attempt to find and rescue the alleged victims through the assistance of the Kachin Independence Organization, a border-based ethnic ceasefire group, and Chinese authorities.

“Currently, we are trying to rescue three women who disappeared after being lured to jobs in China,” Ja Awng told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

According to Ja Awng, 26-year-old Maran Hkawn, a mother of three children, and 37-year-old Ma Lum, a mother of four children, who both lived in the village of Mung Baw, Namdu Township, northern Shan State, were lured by a job offer from a Chinese national to work in a restaurant somewhere near the border and left for China in June 2006. Since then the two have disappeared and neither of their families know their whereabouts.

Another 23-year-old Kachin woman, Mun Ja of Kutkhai Township, who worked at a Chinese restaurant in a village near Rulli in Yunnan Province, disappeared in early January this year along with the owners of the restaurant. Vendors reportedly said the owner had taken the woman to another location in China.

Ja Awng said many human trafficking cases take place on the China-Burma border. She said the KWA rescued two victims last year. The KWA and the KIO gave 8,000 yuan (US $1,032) to Chinese police to rescue a 3-year-old Burmese girl from a Chinese house in a village near Rulli, she said.

The New Light of Myanmar, a Burmese state-run newspaper, reported on February 20 a Burmese court sentenced a 33-year-old man to life imprisonment for human trafficking. The newspaper said a joint China-Burma investigation had uncovered a 64-member human trafficking ring that had allegedly enticed 49 women with offers of jobs in China and then forced them to marry Chinese men.

In early 2005, the Chiang Mai-based Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand, released a report that listed 63 cases of trafficking from 2000 to 2004 involving 85 victims from Kachin State and Shan State.

The report said women as young as fourteen were taken to border towns, into Yunnan Province and as far as Eastern China, where they were forced to marry Chinese men or work in the sex industry.

Ja Awng said the investigations and laws involving human trafficking in both Burma and China need to be more effective.

“Working on this issue, sometimes we had to give money to Chinese police to rescue victims,” she said. “Sometimes to report a case is a sensitive issue. We found some (Chinese) police involvement in the trafficking. Both governments should know that.”