Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Burma to repatriate workers from Borneo shipyard drama

Some 97 Burmese ship workers had to hide inside this godown at the Shin Yang shipyard in Miri, Sabah-Sarawak, in fear for their lives after a gang of Indonesian workers attacked them. (PHOTO: DVB)
Some 97 Burmese ship workers had to hide inside this godown at the Shin Yang shipyard in Miri, Sabah-Sarawak, in fear for their lives after a gang of Indonesian workers attacked them. (PHOTO: DVB)

Twenty-one of the 97 Burmese migrant workers who had locked themselves in a warehouse at a Borneo shipyard after being set upon by a rival gang of workers are due to be flown home this weekend.

The 21 will be the first of several groups to be repatriated, according to Soe Win, the labour attaché at the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, who said he engaged in two days of negotiations in order to guarantee the Burmese workers’ safety.

Soe Win told DVB that he had spoken to Malaysian authorities, the owner of the shipping firm, and representatives of the employment agency that originally sent the Burmese to Sabah-Sarawak to work at the Shin Yang Shipyard in the port of Miri.

The Burmese labour attaché further said that the two Indonesian workers who allegedly instigated the mass brawl on 23 December have been charged by the Miri police after the shipping company filed a complaint.

“Now we are preparing to send 21 workers home on 4- 5 January,” said Soe Win. “We have already booked their air tickets.”

He said that nine Burmese workers have requested continuing working in Borneo because they need the money to support their families; however those workers will be transferred to a different shipyard owned by the same company.

The other 67 workers [conflicting testimony says 68] are to be provided shelter and food rations by the company until they are all repatriated group by group.

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Naw Naw, one of the Burmese workers currently sheltering in Miri, said the process of repatriation was being hampered because the shipping firm was requesting compensation for the loss of labour it has suffered.

“They are asking compensation from us,” he said. “But we quit this job not because we don’t want to work, but because our lives were in danger.”

Some 300,000 Burmese are officially working in Malaysia at the present time, with another 40,000 thought to be living and working there illegally.