Extortion and abuse: Myanmar workers arrive debt-laden in Thailand

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A “mafia” of recruitment agents is trapping Myanmar migrants to Thailand in debt bondage despite a 2017 law meant to fight exploitation in the kingdom’s notoriously shadowy job market, activists and workers say.

Migrant labour — much of it from Myanmar — has propped up Thailand’s economy for years, with foreigners working everywhere from factories to fishing boats, part of a global chain to produce standard supermarket items such as frozen shrimps, ready meals and pet food.

After allegations of slave labour and trafficking prompted the European Union to threaten a ban on Thai products in 2015, the kingdom’s ruling junta has scrambled to clean up industries reliant on a migrant workforce.

The new law that came into force in July last year was meant to crack down on a shady recruitment process, which left desperate migrants vulnerable to corrupt brokers and exploitative companies.

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