Calls for fur­ther pro­tec­tion for mi­grant work­ers

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING news­room@mm­

MYAN­MAR’S pre­em­i­nent trade union con­fed­er­a­tion has called on the govern­ment to take ac­tion to pro­tect mi­grant work­ers from ex­ploita­tion and un­fair treat­ment abroad.

Daw Htwe Htwe Thein, a di­rec­tor of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions of Myan­mar (CTUM), called for stronger reg­u­la­tion of em­ploy­ment agents who re­cruit and send Myan­mar na­tion­als to work over­seas.

Of the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by mi­grant work­ers, Daw Htwe Htwe Thein said, “Most mi­grant work­ers travel abroad il­le­gally. Many of them are from the ru­ral ar­eas and have very lit­tle knowl­edge, mean­ing that they are heav­ily re­liant on bro­kers. They of­ten pay large sums of money to these bro­kers.”

“Some work­ers who ini­tially travel and work legally even­tu­ally be­come il­le­gal be­cause they over­stay their visas in or­der to earn enough money to pay back the fees they owe to bro­kers. Many of those who re­turn also have debts that they owe to bro­kers,” she added.

In ad­di­tion to in­cur­ring debt, many mi­grant work­ers also face dire work­ing con­di­tions in the coun­tries they travel to. Many are un­aware of their rights, as the case of ex­ploited chicken farm work­ers in Thai­land re­cently il­lus­trated.

The Myan­mar Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Agen­cies Fed­er­a­tion (MOEAF) sent more than 100,000 work­ers over­seas last year and has sent over 80,000 so far this year, ac­cord­ing to MOAEF of­fice head U Tun Tun Wai.

“Malaysia is the sec­ond-big­gest des­ti­na­tion for Myan­mar mi­grant work­ers af­ter Thai­land, where around 58,000 work­ers have been sent so far this year,” he said. Work­ers are also sent in large num­bers to Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan, Ma­cau and the United Arab Emi­rates.

Last month MOEAF re­leased a code of con­duct, de­vel­oped with as­sis­tance from the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO), which was de­signed to im­prove mi­grant work­ing con­di­tions.

But Daw Htwe Htwe Thein did not of­fer an overly op­ti­mistic assess­ment of the fu­ture suc­cess of the in­dus­try-based code. “We will have to wait and see whether the agen­cies will ac­tu­ally fol­low the rules or not,” she said.

In re­sponse to the CTUM’s calls, U Thein Win, an of­fi­cial from the Depart­ment of Mi­grant Af­fairs, said there have been laws re­lat­ing to over­seas em­ploy­ment in place since 1999.

He added, how­ever, that the govern­ment has been work­ing for the past two years to up­date this leg­is­la­tion to bet­ter align with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

“We are work­ing to­gether with many ex­perts such as the ILO to amend this law. We are try­ing our best to fin­ish it as soon as pos­si­ble and hope­fully we may be able to fin­ish within this year,” he said.

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