Senior Myanmar officials sued by migrant rights group
A THAILAND-BASED migrant rights group is suing senior figures from the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation and the Ministry of Labour following accusations that the officials exploited the very workers they are meant to help.
The Myanmar Association in Thailand has launched proceedings against the Ministry of Labour’s permanent secretary U Myo Aung, MOEAF’s chair U Min Hlaing, its vice chair U Win Htun and general secretary U Kyaw Htin Kyaw for violations of Myanmar’s insurance and telecommunications laws. At least one of the accused has denied the allegations.
U Kyaw Thaung, leader of the Thailand-based rights organisation, said the senior officials have illegally been selling Thai and Malaysian SIM cards and life insurance policies to workers travelling abroad.
Each month, according to MOEAF figures, more than 7000 Myanmar citizens venture to either Malaysia or Thailand for work. There, many migrants suffer exploitation, unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment at the hands of employers and employment brokers.
“[These officials] are exploiting our migrant workers by cooperating with the brokers and abusing their authority. This is why I have to sue them,” U Kyaw Thaung said, adding that he had sufficient evidence to support his claims.
The lawsuits follow an initial complaint against the four men sent to Myanmar’s president as well as State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“This lawsuit is not a personal attack ... I just want to reveal the improper behaviour of officials who are meant to help workers instead of exploiting them,” U Kyaw Thaung said.
MOEAF chair U Min Hlaing has responded to the allegations, denying any wrongdoing.
“We are not selling SIM cards. We give them to the workers free of charge,” he said.
He added that this practice was intended to assist migrants who might face trouble abroad and need to call someone for help. He said the practice was followed since the previous government and is a protocol that was sanctioned by the Ministry of Labour.
U Min Hlaing also stated that providing life insurance to migrant workers was legal and that it was based on a memorandum of understanding between the Myanmar and Thai governments under which the former’s Ministry of Labour agreed to cover the cost of compensation for migrant workers injured in workplace accidents.
The Myanmar Times was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach U Myo Aung, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour, for comment on the allegations.