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Hundreds of Burmese migrant workers on Wednesday marched in the streets of Bangkok demanding legal action against a company that allegedly cheated them.
Around 700 protesters marched to the Royal Thai Police’s Crime Suppression Division headquarters in Bangkok to file a complaint against Sunjaoping Partnership Ltd, a company that allegedly conned millions of baht from over 2,000 Burmese migrants this year by luring them into buying shares in the company at 10,000 baht (US$300) per share.
The migrant workers bought the company’s shares based on assurances that each “shareholder” would earn back 40,000 baht per share after four months. But following the four-month period, the migrants say they were not given any returns, and their attempts to get their money back were unsuccessful.
DVB spoke with one of the protesters, Kyaw Lin Oo, who said the company conned Burmese migrants nearly 30 million baht, nearly $1 million. He and the other protestors told the police what happened and provided them with physical evidence.
“More than 700 protesters were individually questioned by the police about the case. I showed them all the evidence that I have—including contracts and other documents—and answered all the questions the police asked me,” said Kyaw Lin Oo.
Sandar, a migrant who works at a shoe factory, said that “shareholders” were also obligated to purchase 1,000 baht worth of personal care products such as shampoo, shower cream and body lotion every month for five months. They were also required to pay a 2,500 baht registration fee and pay for various services such as life insurance and “study tours”.
“I trusted the company because they have two Burmese employees—and these guys are still around conning people.”
Khine Kyi, secretary of a migrant advocacy group called the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), said that it received complaints from several migrants about four months ago. Shortly after receiving the complaints MAT staff went to several police stations to help the migrants file a fraud case, but they were consistently rejected by the Thai police.
“We reached out to concerned government offices and the police about four months ago hoping to solve the problem in a subtle way, but they rejected our claim on grounds that fraud cases can only be entertained in Thai courts if at least five million baht is involved,” said Khine Kyi.
“There were only about ten people who complained at the time, so the total amount of fraud was less than five million baht and the police refused to investigate the case. After that, we tried approaching the military and they responded the same way, so we made an announcement online encouraging all victims to come forward. We were finally able to file a case after 559 migrants went to a police station in Bangkok on 18 October.”
Khine Kyi told DVB that although he did not harbour much hope that all the money would be returned, he believe that the migrants would at least learn not to be deceived so easily in the future.
Before registering Sunjaoping Partnership Ltd and allegedly hatching this elaborate fraud scheme, the owners of the company—two Thai individuals—claimed they worked at Amway, an American multi-level marketing company based in Michigan State whose employees sell various personal care, health and beauty products. Forbes listed Amway as the 25th largest private company in the US in 2012, and the company has been very successful in Asia. Apparently, the two alleged fraudsters enticed Burmese migrants into buying Sunjaoping Partnership shares by claiming they had experience at Amway and hiring two Burmese employees to sell the phony stock.