Rise in bars and brothels in Ohn Pin Kwin

October 25, 2013

WCRP:The large village of Ohn Pin Kwin in southern Burma lies along a gas pipeline that is longer, but less well known, than the controversial Yadana pipeline it connects to. During its construction over 2,400 acres of land were seized between Kanbauk in Tenasserim Region and Myaing Kalay in Karen State, and for which villagers received little to no compensation.

Today Ohn Pin Kwin is home predominantly to ethnic Tavoy people together with a small Mon population. The more than 500 families rely mainly on manual labor in factories, cultivation on farms and plantations, or migratory work in Thailand for their livelihoods. But residents alleged that the relative calm in the village has been disrupted by a wave of “beer shops,” or bars, that have recently opened and encouraged increased drinking, prostitution, and corruption between bar owners and police to allow commercial sex. According to villagers, there are now five locales serving alcohol in Ohn Pin Kwin, one run by ethnic Mon proprietors and the others by Burmese, and a spike in family disputes and domestic violence has accompanied the rising number of bars and brothels.

“This village was peaceful before. But most people are accustomed to drinking now, even 60-year-old men go to the beer shop. There was nothing like that before,” said one local mother. “So many parents worry about their sons becoming alcoholics or developing bad habits if the beer shops continue to exist.”

In one case, bar owner Ko Thar Nge was accused of bribing Kanbauk area police to permit prostitution in his shop. Residents reported that he coerced 15 young women from Rangoon, ranging in age from 18 to 25, by promising them jobs working as vendors or housekeepers in the village. One of the women described how 50-year-old Ko Thar Nge paid her parents a lump sum up front to get their permission for her to leave, but said now the women each receive 30,000 kyat per month for preparing food during the day and working as prostitutes after 11pm. She said the small salary has to cover all their food costs and that they are often scolded, concluding that many of the young women would leave if they could find other jobs.

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