KATHMANDU, Nov 1: Civil society members and rights groups in Malaysia have urged the government there to amend the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 to allow the migrant workers and refugees the right to unionize like other workers.
Malaysia, like many migrant-receiving countries in the Gulf region, restricts the foreign workers from assembling peacefully while Malaysian workers have the right to unionize, collective bargaining and organize strikes.
The restriction on peaceful assembly is not only a breach of international human rights laws and standards but also violates a basic human right, three rights groups-- Civicus, Geutanyoe Foundation and the North-South Initiative (NSI), said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The groups said that the restriction on peaceful assembly was making foreign workers in the country vulnerable to losing jobs, getting detained or deported and even subject to intimidation from employers.
“They are often coerced by agents or their employers not to join unions,” the statement said.
Many Nepali workers are affiliated to various informal unions and groups devoted largely to social causes.
Malaysia which is home to millions of migrant workers including around 400,000 Nepali workers has long drawn criticism for perpetuating ill-treatment of workers through various discriminatory laws. Rights groups have been calling on the government to commit to various conventions including the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), Article 26 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 1990 and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
“Human rights, especially the right to peacefully assemble, must not stop at the border,” Free Malaysia Today, an online news portal, quoted Lillianne Fan, co-founder of Geutanyoe Foundation, as saying. She said that it was high time that the act was “amended to allow refugees and migrant workers living in Malaysia to take part in peaceful protests, strikes, demonstrations and sit-ins.”