Thu 21 Dec 2006
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
A hopeful Burmese migrant worker from Sagaing Division who paid a foreign employment agency to fly him to a job and a new life in Malaysia found himself still in Burma when he stepped from the plane. â€œWelcome to Nyaung Oo Airport,â€ read the sign that told him he was in Pagan, the Burmese tourist town, a long way from Malaysia.
Other job-seekers were told they had paid only for tickets â€œwithout seatâ€ and that only payment of a further 50,000 kyat (US $40) guaranteed a place on the plane.
The hard-luck stories were reported by the Rangoon-based weekly Khit Myanmar, and illustrate the extent of racketeering by shady employment agencies, both within Burma and based outside the country. Up to 200 employment agencies are reported to be operating in Burma, handling a flood of applications from job-seekers encouraged by a relaxation of passport and travel formalities.
One employment agency, PM Company, owned by a retired military official and which also operates as an export-import enterprise, is named in a joint complaint by 51 job-seekers who say they paid the firm a total of 70 million kyats ($ 56,680) for jobs in Japan that never materialized. Their letter of complaint-a copy of which was obtained by The Irrawaddy-was filed with the Ministry of Home Affairs, and charges that six months after parting with their money the promised jobs remain just that-promises.
A PM Company official confirmed to The Irrawaddy that complaints had been filed, but said 20 of the complainants had been refunded their money and efforts were still being made to place the others in jobs in Japan.
A Khit Myanmar staff member, requesting anonymity, told The Irrawaddy that similar cases were commonplace in Burma, with most victims being promised jobs in Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, but official censorship prevented investigative reporting of racketeering.
The official Burmese regime standpoint is to claim success with its employment policies. Deputy Minister for Labor Maj-Gen Aung Kyi told a press conference on December 17 that â€œemployment opportunitiesâ€ had more than doubled since 1988-89.
Aung Kyi told reporters Burma’s workforce had increased in the current year to more than 34.7 million. At the same time, licenses had been granted to 70 overseas employment agencies, resulting in 28,689 job vacancies in14 countries.