August 18, 2016

Migrant workers in Thailand left vulnerable as advocacy groups suspend operations

TWO major Thai-based organisations advocating the rights of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand, the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT) and the Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar workers (AAC), have suspended their activities in light of resignation by both groups from the Myanmar Embassy’s Worker Assistance Committee.
The resignation of both organisations comes after a meeting with the Myanmar Ambassador to Thailand on Monday.
“Representatives of our ACC and U Kyaw Thaung’s MAT have resigned from the [embassy’s] committee. In light of this matter, we’ve suspended our activities to assist Myanmar migrant workers as of today.” said Ko Ye Min of AAC via phone from Thailand.
The suspension of both groups’ activities effectively cuts off a lifeline for the multitudes of migrant workers employed in Thailand under precarious circumstances.
Both organisations reportedly resigned from the embassy’s committee over differences of opinion, together with
the embassy’s inability to take responsibility over their safety.
“It was our own decision [to resign],” continued Ko Ye Min. “They said they couldn’t take responsibility for our safety, and we didn’t see eye-to-eye on some matters as well.

The embassy isn’t as cozy with [migrant] workers as the AAC is.

We’ve given them back our organisation’s embassy card. The organisation will continue to exist. We’ve just been forced to suspend our advocacy activities for the time being.”
U Moe Aung Naing, an official from the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand, said the embassy confiscated the organisations’ cards, issued by the embassy which officially recognised them as migrant worker advocacy organisations, reportedly because they are to be issued with new cards that will better represent the changed status of the organisations in Thailand.
“The embassy’s workers assistance committee met with the ambassador on 7 August. The embassy took in the current cards of both groups which resigned as they will be issued with new ones by the Thai government,” he said. A total of eight members, five from MAT and three from AAC, resigned from the embassy’s committee, while remaining committee members from other migrant worker advocacy groups will continue to hold their positions unaffected.
“To be frank, the embassy isn’t as cozy with [migrant] workers as the AAC is. We’ve never even heard of people from the embassy providing assistance the entire time we’ve resided in the country. To rely on an embassy that doesn’t do its job is funny,” said U Kyaw Min Htaike, a Myanmar migrant worker living in Thailand.
On 5 August, the Thai government ordered both organisations be brought in for investigation after a statement they made during a joint press-conference held in Yangon on 2 August, that tens of thousands of Myanmar migrant workers had been subjected to arrest by Thai authorities, was published on the Thai News Daily’s website.— Myitmakha News Agency


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