Burma suspends sending of migrant workers to Malaysia amid diplomatic row

Burma suspends sending of migrant workers to Malaysia amid diplomatic row

The Department of Labour in Naypyidaw on Tuesday ordered overseas employment agencies to temporarily stop sending migrants to Malaysia amid rising tensions between the two countries over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in western Burma.

A directive signed by the director-general of the department said overseas employment agencies that have already received approvals from the Education, Health and Human Resources Development Committee for a new batch of Burmese migrants to be employed in Malaysia can still send them but will have to pay for expenses to bring them back to Burma should any problems arise concerning those migrants in the fellow Southeast Asian nation. Agencies that fail to take responsibility could have their licences revoked, the department warned.

The directive was issued after the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday issued a warning to Burmese nationals living in Malaysia to take precautions to ensure their own safety amid a spat between the two countries over the latest Rohingya upheaval in Arakan State.

Since the deadly 9 October attacks on border guard outposts in the state’s north, a Burma Army counter-insurgency campaign — targeting what the government says are Muslim militants — has increasingly drawn the scrutiny of human rights groups and the United Nations amid a dearth of information coming out of the region. The government of majority-Muslim Malaysia has entered the fray in recent weeks, with the foreign ministry calling the operation in Arakan State “by definition ethnic cleansing” and Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak describing it as “genocide” at a Rohingya solidarity rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Both countries’ respective ambassadors to the other were summoned late last month to address the growing bilateral rift.

Malaysia is second only to Thailand in terms of the number of Burmese migrant workers employed in-country. According to data gathered as part of the 2014 census, there were nearly 304,000 Myanmar nationals working in Malaysia that year, 80 percent of whom were men.

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