Lawmakers call for stronger protection of overseas workers
STRONGER laws are needed to protect Myanmar migrant workers from exploitation and abuse, MPs demanded yesterday. They said the 10 percent of Myanmar citizens working overseas deserved more help from their government.
The government should respect and value its citizens overseas and take responsibility for their safety, Daw Nan Moe (TPNP; Manton) told the Pyithu Hluttaw.
She was supporting a proposal urging the Union government to help Myanmar nationals forced to work abroad because of joblessness and low wages at home from being used as forced labour, bullied, insulted, arrested, tortured or even killed, by liaising with the governments concerned, and to take swift action accordingly.
Daw Nan Moe said most Myanmar workers in China were ethnic Palaung and Shan citizens from northern Shan State who had been forced from their homes by high unemployment, instability and trafficking.
Women and children were the principal victims, she said. “They are trafficked as sex workers. Some are working as housemaids, or sold as brides.”
Most Myanmar migrant workers in China had been trafficked, and of 110 cases she cited, 95 were women, she said.
The MP, who represents the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Party, put forward a plan that would protect Myanmar migrant workers through government-to-government negotiations; create job opportunities in regions of high unemployment; enact a law protecting migrant workers; respect and value citizens and take responsibility for them; and issue labour ID cards for workers in China through negotiations with the Chinese government.
“Creating jobs will take time, so issuing labour cards is the best solution for the time being. It could protect migrant workers in China,” she said.
U Thaung Htay Linn (NLD; Patheingyi) said Myanmar people had to work abroad because of job scarcity and low wages at home. Residents of border areas had to work abroad because of insecurity and bad roads, which stopped them selling their produce. Many jobs overseas were difficult, unsanitary and ill-suited to the many migrant workers who are graduates, he said. He put the number of people leaving Myanmar to work abroad at 10pc of the population.
“The government has a responsibility to help migrant workers, who face arrest and torture by employers in collaboration with local police, as well as robbery, threats and extortion,” he said.
As a first step, the government should release a statement acknowledging its responsibility for its citizens, said Dr Kyi Moh Moh Lwin (NLD; Singaing), and to take up their problems with the other governments concerned.
“It’s necessary to simplify the process of legalising their status. Our embassies overseas should compile lists of legal and illegal workers,” she said.
The proposal was submitted by U Kyaw Aung Lwin (NLD; Sidoktaya) on September 21. Ten MPs have already taken part in the debate and six more, as well as the immigration officials concerned, have yet to speak.