Labour activist facing lawsuit after MOEAF complaint


YANGON — The Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation is countersuing a labour rights activist who has filed complaints to police against three senior federation members.

U Kyaw Thaung, who leads labour rights group the Myanmar Association in Thailand, filed complaints to police in North Dagon last month against MOEAF chair U Min Hlaing, vice chair U Win Htun, general secretary U Kyaw Htin Kyaw and Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population permanent secretary U Myo Aung.

He has accused them of breaking the Telecommunications Law by not paying tax when selling foreign SIM cards to migrant workers, and of violating insurance laws when selling policies to those heading overseas.

Win Htun and Kyaw Htin Kyaw said on October 26 that they planned to respond by filing a complaint to police against Kyaw Thaung alleging defamation, which carries a prison term of up to two years.

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They said the “personal attacks” had tarnished the image of the four individuals, as well as the ministry and the federation.

They are planning to file at least one more complaint to police against Kyaw Thaung, but did not specify the allegation or relevant law.

MOEAF chair Min Hlaing said the ministry had instructed the federation to sign a memorandum of understanding with a Malaysian company, Tone Plus, to ensure all Myanmar workers heading to the country received a SIM card.

He said the workers were not charged for the SIMs, so the allegation that no tax had been paid was irrelevant.

The initiative was designed to help protect workers and there was no direct benefit for the federation or its senior officials.

“He’s submitted this accusation without knowing anything about our policy,” Min Hlaing said.

The MOEAF chair added that the “personal attacks” were designed to build up Kyaw Thaung’s own reputation as a labour activist. 

But Kyaw Thaung stood by the allegations when contacted by Frontier. He said he had “strong evidence” that foreign SIM cards had been sold to workers heading to Thailand and Malaysia.

“I have the payment vouchers from the MOEAF in my hands,” he said. “How can we allow foreign SIM cards to be sold in our country with no tax?”

His lawyer, U Aung Thurein Htun, said witnesses who could support Kyaw Thaung’s were being pressured not to speak to police.

“These cases are not for the benefit of U Kyaw Thaung. The MOEAF is not an enemy for him; he’s just focused on the rights of the workers,” Aung Thurein Htun said.

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