High Commission denies viral video assault claims

Azlan Othman

The Bangladesh High Commission in Brunei Darussalam refuted allegations that its staff had beaten up Bangladeshi workers, after a video went viral on social media.

Information obtained yesterday from the high commission stated that eight Bangladeshi migrant workers had assaulted manpower agent Kamrul Hasan inside its premises on August 21, during an altercation.

These workers had been filing complaints against Kamrul for some time, citing maltreatment, unemployment and unpaid wages.

Their difficulties spanned two to eight months of injustice, persecution and exploitation. Kamrul is a sub-agent of Abdur Rahim, who allegedly runs a racket of visa trading and human trafficking in Brunei Darussalam.

The Labour Wing of the high commission had initially contacted Kamrul Hasan by telephone, telling him to be present for a hearing on the complaints of the workers. But instead of complying with the high commission’s instructions, he showed defiance.

The high commission then served Kamrul with a written notice, asking for an explanation, or else his passport would be cancelled for reasons of non-compliance.

On receiving the written notice, Kamrul and several of his associates appeared before the hearing conducted by Kayes, a Welfare Assistant.

During the hearing, the agent and the eight workers were involved in an altercation concerning their migration cost, promised jobs and pending wages.

The workers accused Kamrul of taking BND6,000 and not giving them any jobs, let alone the promised BND30 per day for work.

The workers also complained that he never arranged any jobs for them, or gave them food for the holiday period of Aidiladha, which he spent in Thailand.

The agent shrugged off their complaints and implicitly threatened them, citing his links with Rahim, Ellias, Munna and Mehedi, the most notorious recruitment brokers in the Brunei-Muara area.

At length, the eight workers grew enraged and began to rough up Kamrul, which was captured on video by one of Kamrul’s friends.

An official at the Bangladesh High Commission said, “It needs to be mentioned that the situation of expatriate workers in Brunei is worsening by the day, due to the reprehensible connivance of the recruiting agents, brokers and local companies.

“The spate of such migration crimes is on the rise, because of unbridled visa trading business conducted by vicious manpower recruiting gangs. The overall situation is grim and must be dealt with comprehensively.

“The high commission feels that coordinated efforts among relevant agencies, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, are necessary before the situation goes out of control.”

Last year, the high commission’s Labour Wing gave certification to 4,500 workers’ employment visas, but 10,000 more have landed in Brunei without a proper attestation of visas.

Around 30,000 Bangladeshi migrants are working in Brunei, with most employed in the construction sector. However, a large number are jobless on reaching the country after spending $3,000-$4,000 or more to work in Brunei, in search of a better life.

“Even if they find jobs, the brokers take a huge cut from their wages,” said the official, adding that such malpractices have been present for quite a long time.

A recent investigation revealed dozens of brokers operating in Sengkurong and Serusop, which are frequented by South Asian migrant workers.

It was also discovered that there are many Bangladeshi brokers colluding with Brunei companies in running employment rackets. “There is a need to streamline this,” said the official.