Aung*, 16, rescued from a fishing boat in Myanmar

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Consecutive crisis

A year after the army took control of Myanmar, the country is facing a severe humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is also dealing a severe blow to the country’s economy.

Aung’s parents did not have regular jobs. They were selling snacks along the shore of Inya Lake, a popular recreation area, but due to COVID-19 restrictions they could not continue to earn a living. They also work in betel and chilli farms but only earned an average of 150,000 kyat (US$80) per month. Her older sister worked in a foam factory, but became unemployed when the factory closed in January 2022. Her brother works in a construction company – but their operations were unstable even before the pandemic. Even working together, Aung’s family earns less than a daily minimum wage.

“COVID-19 has made our situation worse. One day, I decided to look for a job to support my family,” recalls Aung*. He felt he had no choice but to work to help his family survive.

According to UN reports, the pandemic is taking a toll on family incomes and, with limited support, many children could resort to child labour.¹ As poverty increases, schools are closed or suspended and children are pushed into the labor market.

Along with his friends, Aung went to his family to look for work. They tried to apply for a career, but didn’t get the job.

The false promise

A broker approached Aung and his friends and promised them a high-paying job.

“We trusted him easily. Without a doubt, we went with him,” says Aung.

They arrived at Twantay Township where they met three other brokers. The recruiter took them to the Thamargone moto-taxi station in Hlaing Thar Yar where they met another broker named U Ashay Gyi, who offered them a job sorting fish only. Aung didn’t hesitate to take the job because he thought the job was manageable for him.

The recruiters then took Aung and his friends to Pyapon, where they spent the night in a small hut behind a food stand. The next day they were brought to a port in Pyapon.

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