Two Burmese labour rights groups looking after migrant workers said Burma’s authorities had blocked them from operating in Thailand because they had criticised recruitment practices as “legal human trafficking”.
Up to 3 million people from Burma, officially known as Myanmar, are working in neighboring Thailand, many doing menial jobs, and contributing a significant portion to total remittances that amount to 5 percent of gross domestic product, according to a World Bank estimate.
The two groups, Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar Workers (AAC) and Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT), need permission from their government to operate.
But the groups said permission had been revoked after they called in a news conference last week for their government to crack down on Burmese employment agencies, whose practices they said led to the mistreatment and even imprisonment of workers.
“The embassy revoked the license it issued to us,” Ye Min of the AAC told Reuters late on Tuesday.
“We’ve decided to stop operations since we can’t do anything without a license,” Ye Min said, adding the AAC believed the embassy action was in response to their criticism at last week’s news conference.
The embassy did not respond to requests for comment but the permanent secretary at the foreign ministry, Aung Lynn, denied that the embassy in Bangkok has anything to do with the affair.
He blamed the problem on infighting among activists and denied that their licenses had been revoked.
Last week, the labour groups criticised arrangements for workers and called on the government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, who met migrant workers in Thailand on a visit there in June, to overhaul the system.
“Only corrupt Myanmar officials and dishonest job agencies close to them are benefiting from existing policy and practices,” Kyaw Thaung of the MAT told the news conference.
The MAT likened the system to “legal human trafficking“.
Officials at Burma’s Labour Ministry, which oversees arrangements for migrant workers, were not available for comment.