January 28, 2009: The Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA) is once again issuing alerts to Vietnamese guest workers regarding money transfers via Western Union.
In response to a letter from CAMSA detailing concerns that workers were being shorted money, Western Union replied that they were working with the Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development. According to Western Union, the bank has promised to deal with the problem.
However, according to Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, executive director of Boat People SOS, these promises are not satisfactory.
“Western Union still lacks procedures for victims to complain directly to the firm, and hasn’t addressed the issue of tracking down and setting things right for all those affected in years past,” said Dr. Thang.
CAMSA uncovered the remittances issue while successfully intervening on behalf of an exploited Vietnamese guest workers. Upon returning home to Vietnam, a group of 10 discovered that not all of the money due to them had been transferred.
Western Union, upon being confronted with the problem, at first tried to shift the blame to a Malaysian bank. However, that bank came forward with receipts regarding the timely transfer of the funds.
“We believe that Western Union tried to shift the blame because they didn’t want to admit to this shortchanging problem, which could be affecting many customers of the Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development,” added Thang.
According to official government figures, there are now 600,000 Vietnamese working abroad, and the amount of money they remit runs into the billions. That is not to mention the overseas Vietnamese communities of immigrants and refugees, who also send funds to family members.