Myanmar workers’ rights groups banned in Thailand for criticising recruitment practices

Author: PM editorial | Date: 17 Aug 2016

Latest labour rights issue comes after 10,000 Myanmarese immigrants were arrested and deported

A week after 10,000 Myanmarese workers were arrested deported from Thailand, two labour rights groups have been banned from working in the country for criticising its recruitment practices.
 
The two groups, Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar Workers (AAC) and Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), compared the sanctioned channels for sending Myanmarese workers overseas, using memoranda of understanding, as “legal human trafficking.”
 
The AAC and MAT had earlier resigned from a migrant workers protection committee formed by the Myanmar embassy in Thailand. In a news conference, they said that Myanmarese employment agencies’ practices led to the mistreatment and even imprisonment of workers, reported Reuters.
 
Both Thai and Myanmar labour officials have promised to take action and said the AAC and MAT should face punishment for speaking out of line.
 
The first stage of the punishment appears to be having their permission to operate revoked. Ye Min of the AAC said: “We've decided to stop operations since we can't do anything without a licence.”
 
At the end of July, the arrest and deportation of 10,000 Myanmarese workers from Thailand began, as part of a registration drive for undocumented foreign employees.
 
The registration drive did, however, result in around 800,000 workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia registering before it closed on 29 July.
 
Andy Hall, a lawyer speaking to the Southeast Asia Globe, said that some workers crossing the border back to Myanmar fall into the hands of corrupt officials. “Very often, workers are not just deported,” said Hall. “Very often, workers are arrested, they’re extorted, they’re exploited and then they’re let free.”
 
Issues of mass deportation and banned labour rights groups are in stark contrast to a more harmonious sentiment just a month ago, when the two countries signed a series of agreements on migrant labour and cross-border cooperation.