Rights Group Accuses Embassy Workers of Exploiting Migrant Workers

By Khin Oo Tha 23 November 2016

The Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) based in Thailand’s Mahachai sent a complaint to Burma’s State Counselor’s Office and the Ministry of Labor, accusing Burma Embassy staff in Bangkok of exploiting Burmese migrant workers.

“Burmese migrant workers are not allowed to apply for passports at the Burma Embassy passport counter, and instead can only apply at the desks of middlemen near the passport counter. The middlemen charge an additional 300 Thai baht (about US$10) for every application,” U Aung Kyaw, vice-chairman of the MWRN, told The Irrawaddy.

The official charge set by Burma’s government for passport applications is 1,530 baht but it can cost up to 8,000 baht if the application is made through middlemen, according to MWRN.

The previous government simplified the procedure to issue passports for Burmese migrant workers in 2014, and since then about 200,000 migrant workers have applied but only about 40,000 have received passports, said MWRN in a statement on Nov. 17.

The statement claimed that the money exploited from Burmese migrant workers might be as much as 60 million baht if the additional charge per application is calculated at 300 baht per person.

MWRN added that it takes between four and six months to receive a passport.

Military attaché U Wunna Han of the Burma Embassy in Bangkok said MWRN’s claim is only an accusation and that there is no exploitation of Burmese migrant workers.

“We don’t accept misconduct. If we are found committing misconduct, complaints can be sent to the State Counselor’s Office and the President’s Office along with evidence,” U Wunna Han told The Irrawaddy.

It takes up to six months to issue passports because the embassy sends the documents to Burma to check if the applicants’ personal data is correctly filled in, U Wunna Han justified.

He said the embassy would not respond to the MWRN statement and that the embassy had not yet received an official complaint.

MWRN was established in March 2009. The network assists Burmese migrant workers in Thailand in regards to human rights violations, exploitation and labor rights violations.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko