Myanmar has temporarily banned its women from working as maids in Singapore or Hong Kong because of concerns over abuse and exploitation, an employment body in Yangon said yesterday. The suspension comes amid a global spotlight on the working conditions of migrant domestic helpers in Asia after reports of widespread abuse, including the case of an Indonesian maid who allegedly endured months of torture by her Hong Kong boss. Myanmar - which only last year passed a law that allowed its nationals to work as domestic helpers overseas - will impose the ban until an agreement is reached with Singapore over issues including worker rights and salary. "We have been informed of cases of abuse and ill-treatment of Myanmar maids in Singapore … That's why we want proper protection for workers," said Soe Myint Aung, a vice-chairman of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation. "The Labour Ministry has temporarily suspended permits for women until the federation signs a memorandum of understanding with [its counterpart in] Singapore." He did not specify when the suspension came into place but said discussions to thrash out an agreement began around a month ago. The official said there was also a suspension on permits for maids wanting to work in Hong Kong, which received its first official group of 19 Myanmese helpers in February, but did not say when this came into effect. After amending its migration law last year, the former junta-ruled state has officially only sent domestic helpers - most of whom are women - to Singapore and Hong Kong. The case of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih - whose Hong Kong employer now faces charges including grievous bodily harm with intent - triggered international concern about the treatment of domestic helpers. About 30,000 maids from Myanmar are thought to work both legally and illegally in affluent Singapore. Many more are estimated to be employed without official permits in neighbouring Thailand.