Ac­tivists to face ac­tion for com­ments on traf­fick­ing

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­times.com

Two rights groups are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated and may face penal­ties for defama­tion af­ter al­leg­ing that the Thai and Myan­mar gov­ern­ments run “le­gal hu­man traf­fick­ing”.

MI­GRANT rights ac­tivists who ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of op­er­at­ing a “le­gal” hu­man traf­fick­ing pipe­line must face pun­ish­ment for speak­ing out of line, Thai and Myan­mar labour of­fi­cials have said.

The two rights groups, the Myan­mar As­so­ci­a­tion in Thai­land (MAT) and the Aid Al­liance Com­mit­tee for Myan­mar work­ers (AAC), last week com­pared the for­mal, sanc­tioned chan­nels for send­ing Myan­mar labour­ers over­seas via mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing to ex­ploita­tive hu­man smug­gling rings.

The anal­ogy has been made be­fore, in­clud­ing by Euro­pean non-prof­its Fin­nwatch and Swed­watch who last year found that the MoU route abroad is of­ten just as cor­rupt, feein­duc­ing and neg­li­gent of the work­ers’ rights as the il­licit net­works. But this time, the com­par­i­son hit a nerve.

Labour of­fi­cials in both Thai­land and Myan­mar re­buked the agen­cies, and promised penal­ties would be forth­com­ing, though the na­ture of the re­course re­mains un­clear.

“We have long been sym­pa­thetic to these groups be­cause they helped work­ers with a con­struc­tive in­ten­tion. But now, their ac­tiv­i­ties have gone too far. Their re­marks have vi­o­lated the spirit of our MoU con­tract be­tween our two coun­tries,” U Myo Aung, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the Min­istry of Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion said yes­ter­day.

“We have to take ac­tion against these two groups,” he added.

The rights or­gan­i­sa­tions yes­ter­day re­signed from a mi­grant work­ers pro­tec­tion com­mit­tee that had been formed by the Myan­mar em­bassy in Thai­land.

“We have just re­signed [yes­ter­day] be­cause we found that em­bassy didn’t pro­tect us while we were work­ing to bet­ter mi­grant af­fairs,” said Ko Ye Min, a leader of the AAC.

Yes­ter­day, lo­cal me­dia out­let 7Day re­ported that the Thai Labour Min­istry planned to ar­rest the lead­ers of both ac­tivist groups for defama­tion.

Both Ko Ye Min and U Kyaw Thaung, di­rec­tor of the Myan­mar As­so­ci­a­tion in Thai­land, de­nied the re­port.

“That news isn’t true. I just con­tacted the DSI [Thai Depart­ment of Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion] on Satur­day [Au­gust 6]. They told me they have no plan to ar­rest us. But they have or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into to our al­le­ga­tions about mi­grant bro­kers and the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment col­lud­ing, to de­ter­mine if it is true or not,” said U Kyaw Thaung.

U Kyaw Thaung added that both groups will sus­pend their projects for the mo­ment.

The group lead­ers have been fac­ing threats on their life from a gang of hu­man traf­fick­ers be­cause they helped res­cue many Myan­mar vic­tims from that net­work, U Kyaw Thaung told The Myan­mar Times on Au­gust 8.

He added that both the Myan­mar over­seas em­ploy­ment agen­cies and Thai­land are an­gry that MAT and AAC re­vealed the un­fair and dis­hon­est treat­ment many work­ers con­front when go­ing abroad via the legally touted agen­cies.

The Myan­mar em­bassy in Thai­land said no one was avail­able to com­ment on the is­sue yes­ter­day.

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