Teen maid returns after abuse, no pay in Malaysia
AN 18-year-old woman has returned home after a brief stint working in Malaysia as a maid for no money while suffering physical beatings, the Myanmar embassy said.
Ma San Thida arrived at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur on August 28, acknowledging that she had come to the country illegally two months prior using an agency that had arranged her employment as a maid. After she realised the harsh conditions, she fled.
“I also witnessed many other girls in a similar situation,” said Ma San Thida in a statement released by the embassy.
The embassy donated K150,000 (US$125) to Ma San Thida and granted her the Certificate of Identity she needed in order to return to Myanmar. The documentation fees were paid for by donors.
Myanmar’s overseas embassies in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are attempting to make lists of undocumented maids like Ma San Thida with the help of the host countries. The project began six months ago, according to Department of Migrant Affairs official U Thein Win, but negotiations with the countries are still ongoing.
“There were many cases of abuse among maids who went abroad for work and that is why the government stopped sending domestic workers overseas in 2014,” said Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF) migrant affairs official Ko Myo Win Yin.
The decree did not stop women from finding ways to get abroad to take jobs, however.
Most go to Singapore, said Nay Pyi Taw Anti-Human-Trafficking Police officer Ko Min Naing, and others go to Malaysia.
Jolovan Wham, executive director of the Singaporean Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), told The Myanmar Times in June that the number of Myanmar maids in Singapore grew an estimated 50 percent between 2013 and 2015, with over 30,000 there now, which was evidence that the ban was not effective.
The ban has not only failed to stop women from Myanmar going abroad to work – it has also led to a black market that puts the women at greater risk of exploitation and slavery, according to HOME, which was set up to protect migrant workers’ rights.
The MOEAF said in June that it has become harder for authorities to police the movement of domestic workers across Myanmar’s borders because large employment agencies have been replaced by individual human smugglers, often from within their victims’ social circles.
“It is particularly difficult to track the trafficking of girls from Chin and Kayin states because their church is often involved,” said U Win Tun, vice chair of the MOEAF.
There were 130 official cases of human trafficking in Myanmar last year, with a total of 641 victims. Chin State was the only region of Myanmar not to have recorded any official cases.