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[Thailand] Workers told to take up skills training

Unskilled Thai migrants in South Korea are being encouraged to participate in additional skills training offered by Seoul to help secure better jobs and higher pay, the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul says.

The labour attache at the embassy, Pinyuda Jamjasri, said that out of the 26,011 Thai workers legally working in South Korea, only 517 people came in as skilled migrants.

“The figure is significantly lower than the number of phi noi, or illegal Thai workers in South Korea, whose numbers are estimated to be around 140,000,” said Ms Pinyuda.

According to her, the majority of Thai workers are employed in the agriculture and farming sector.

“These workers have passed the necessary tests,” said Ms Pinyuda.

Unskilled workers aged 39 and/or younger are usually granted permits, which are valid for a maximum of four years and 10 months. These workers receive minimum wages, and are required to return to Thailand upon the expiry of their permits. To re-enter South Korea, an unskilled worker must re-apply for a new permit.

In contrast, skilled workers with an E7-4 visa, can work for a maximum period of two years, but the contract can be renewed without limits, as long as the worker passes a standardised labour skills test.

Ms Pinyuda said that the Thai ambassador to South Korea, Singtoon Lapisatepun is also encouraging workers to take up the offer to secure better jobs and higher pay.

The South Korean government sponsors training for a number of skills, including backhoe driving, baking, and language courses, which migrant workers can join free of charge at the weekends.

Trainees are given an ATM card with two million won (about 25,000 baht) to pay for food and travel expenses for the duration of the course.

One of the participants, Jakkrawut Moontha, said that he has been attending a three-month electronics course on Sundays.

“Once I graduate in October, I plan to do the labour skills test, which would allow me to seek out higher-paying jobs,” he said.

That said, the chances of successfully applying for an E7-4 visa also hinge on other factors — such as the applicant’s savings, as well as their Korean language proficiency.

Other factors that could hurt an applicant’s prospects include the applicant’s legal records.

Mr Jakkrawut is confident of his chances because he was recently honoured as an outstading labour volunteer for his work with a local television channel that focuses on migrant workers’ communities in South Korea.

Another labour volunteer, Jittikan Jindawong, urged other workers to take up the courses.

“I first came as an illegal migrant in 2001,” she said.

“When the authorities announced an amnesty, I signed up for a training course, taking up tiling before reapplying to work.”

“Now, I earn more as a skilled worker,” said Ms Jittikan.

Written by Penchan Charoensuthipan
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 13 August 2019
Link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1729191/workers-told-to-take-up-skills-training

Unscrupulous employment agencies prey on workers despite agreements

Ko Tun Tun Naing and his family in Bago Region could not contain their excitement when he was told that he would finally be leaving for Thailand to work in an aluminium-frame installation company.

He was already thinking about buying land so that he could build a house for his family. His six-year-old child and wife now live at his parent’s house. He thought nothing could go wrong because he was getting the job under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the Myanmar and Thai governments, and a licensed employment agency was processing his application.

He was in for a rude awakening. A licensed agency and the MoU system are no guarantees that you can secure the job you apply for. Migrant rights groups said many workers have been victimised by dishonest agencies that send workers to Thailand even though no jobs are waiting for them.

Ko Tun Tun Naing was among 60 migrant workers who flew to Bangkok earlier this month to work as installers at the aluminium-frame factory.

The employment contracts they signed in November last year said they would earn 315 baht (K15,200) a day for eight hours of work, far more than Myanmar’s K4800 minimum wage for the same number of working hours.

Unfortunately, when they reached Bangkok their prospective employer refused to give them work. The company did allow them to stay at the factory while they were looking for other jobs but they were seldom given food.

Nearly a month after the nightmare started, 16 of the workers found employment at other factories with the help of the Myanmar labour attaché and the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF) in Bangkok.

The other 44 workers, including Ko Tun Tun Naing, did not accept the offer as they had no experience in the jobs, which were at wood mills and iron factories.

“We had to look for employment by ourselves,” he said. In the meantime, the workers had to spend money to rent rooms while they waited for letters discharging them from their commitment to their original employer so that they could get another job in Thailand.

The workers have asked other job brokers to help them find employment suitable to their experience. Ko Tun Tun Naing and 21 others said they are looking forward to working at a chicken factory on the outskirts of Bangkok.

He said they had to pay the brokers 6000 baht each to get jobs at the factory and they have to pay for their own accommodations.

“All of that would be OK if the job is all right. I don’t think about the money I lost to the agency that sent me here as long as I am able to get a job,” Ko Tun Tun Naing said, adding that he and the other workers paid K1 million apiece to the agency that promised them jobs at the frame installation factory.

“I know they were exploiting us, but we are desperate for jobs. It would be a minor expense for us if we got good jobs,” he said, while admitting that he had borrowed the money for the fee from a loan shark.

“I have to struggle for about six months to pay for the interest on my loan if I get this job at the chicken factory,” he said.

Under the MoU, employment agencies collect K150,000 and 3600 baht in fees from each worker to pay the Thai government for visas, work permits, and medical insurance.

Ko Hla Thein, not his real name, has worked at a factory in Thailand for over a year, and paid K850,000 to an employment agency. “We were told by the agency to say that we paid only K150,000 if asked by the Labour Department,” he said.

He said workers usually agree to lie about the fee to the Labour Department because they are so desperate to get a job in Thailand.

“We don’t mind paying as much as K1 million if the job is OK. We willingly shoulder the cost if the agency takes full responsibility for the problems,” he said.

However, migrant rights activists said that most agencies do not help the workers they send to Thailand if they run into trouble.

U Aung Kyaw, president of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) in Thailand, said that although the prescribed employment fees are reasonable under the MoU, they are rarely followed.

“Employment agencies find the workers through brokers, so the workers have to pay as much as K1.2 million in fees,” said U Aung Kyaw. “No one here charges the actual rate of K150,000.”

According to migrant workers and migrant rights groups, every Myanmar worker who goes to Thailand pays an employment fee of at least K800,000.

Dishonest agencies send workers to Thailand even without knowing if they’ll get jobs there because it is so profitable, MWRN said.

“Myanmar agencies know that if they can send workers to Thailand, they’ll make a profit,” U Aung Kyaw said.

The Confederation of Trades Union Myanmar (CTUM), which has an office in Thailand, has handled about 50 cases in the past three months concerning workers sent to nonexistent jobs in Thailand under the MoU.

“This needs to be investigated. Action must be taken against these unscrupulous agencies,” said Ko Aung Kyaw Myint, chief of CTUM’s migration department.

An executive of the MOEAF said that many agencies charge more than the prescribed fee because they have to pay more than 3600 baht to the Thai agencies to get more job demand letters.

Some Myanmar agencies are buying worker demand letters from the Thai agencies as a type of tender, which is why the employment fee is higher than the fixed rate, said U Myat Thu, joint general secretary of the federation.

He said that the K150,000 charged by Myanmar agencies is very low because the actual cost of processing the documents is about K90,000.

“The agency can only make a profit of about K60,000 from the workers, but some agencies lose face when the workers they send to the kingdom get into trouble or cause problems,” he said.

The federation has asked the Labour Ministry to raise the employment fee to 5000 baht (K238,000). They also want the Thai agencies to collect 3600 baht from the workers in Thailand, not from the Myanmar side.

U Myat Thu said that despite the difficulties, many agencies that send workers to Thailand charge only the prescribed fee.

“We don’t deny that there are some greedy agencies. We try to remove them from our group,” he said.

About 20 licensed agencies recently accused an official in the Labour Attaché’s Office in Bangkok of collecting over K1 billion in processing fees from the agencies.

Myanmar Labour Minister U Thein Swe said that, based on the agencies’ accounts, the processing of papers costs as much as K1 million per worker sent to Thailand.

“We are trying hard to establish a no-cost system for our workers to help ease their burden by working with the federation,” U Thein Swe said.

About 15,000 Myanmar workers travel to Thailand every month under the MoU between the two countries, according to the ministry.

“Migrant workers are the benefactors of the country, as they provide much-needed foreign remittances, so they must be protected,” MWRN’s U Aung Kyaw said.

Written by Zaw Zaw Htwe

Source: Myanmar Times

Published on 28 May 2019

Link: https://www.mmtimes.com/news/unscrupulous-employment-agencies-prey-workers-despite-agreements.html

Illegal migrant workers [sic] arrested, en route to Malaysia

SONGKHLA: Fifteen illegal Myanmar workers crammed inside a pickup truck, and the Thai driver, were arrested in Bang Klam district of Songkhla in the early hours of Wednesday.

A police team had waited near a deserted petrol station in tambon Tha Chang following information an attempt would be made to smuggle illegal migrant workers from Chumphon province to Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat, on the border with Malaysia.

They spotted a suspect black pickup truck with Chumphon licence plates travelling the road around 2am.

They followed it and came across the pickup stopped on the side of Lop Buri Ramesuan Road in Bang Klam district with a burst rear left tyre.

A search uncovered 15 illegal migrant workers crammed inside the cab and lying down in the bed of the truck covered with black netting.

Driver Phongyut Noiwaree, 36, of Chumphon, was also detained.

Police said the illegal migrants were destined for Malaysia. They extended the investigation, which led to the arrest of nine more illegal migrant workers from Myanmar at a construction camp in Hat Yai district of this southern province.

All were held in custody at Bang Klam police station pending further investigation police expected would lead to the arrest of those organising the smuggling.

Illegal migrant workers in the bed of a pickup truck after a rear tyre burst in Bang Klam district, Songkhla. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)

Lured by money, Myanmar maid finds ruin in Singapore

“Just open your mouth, baby daughter. I will feed you. Open your mouth again, Baby Thet Khaing Soe,” the woman whispered as she slowly and carefully lowered a small spoon to the lips of a young lady lying motionless on the wooden floor with her head resting on a pillow.

The heart-rending scene could easily be from a Myanmar tearjerker movie but it was the first thing we saw recently upon entering the dilapidated house of Daw San San Aye, 45, in remote Alalkhone village in Ngaputaw township, Ayeyarwady Region.

Daw San San Aye was feeding her 24-year-old daughter, Ma Thet Khaing Soe, who has been in a coma for months since she was suddenly sent to hospital in Singapore by her employer.

What happened to her is a mystery, and it is difficult for the family to seek help because Ma Thet Khaing Soe was an illegal worker in the city state, where the Myanmar government has banned sending domestic help. Migrant activists say the ban leaves the maids unprotected and easily exploited.

For four months, Daw San San Aye has been looking after her daughter, who apparently cannot feel anything. Her legs shake but her hands are lifeless; her eyes are unresponsive and remain open day and night.

“I am often jolted from sleep in the middle of the night. I get up to check if my daughter is breathing or not. I am so scared,” the mother said.

Road to ruin

Alalkhone village is eight hours by bus, motorcycle and boat from Yangon. There is no electricity. Villagers live on rice cultivation, which can only be done during the rainy season as there is no irrigation.

Ma Thet Khaing Soe’s family relies on the earnings of the father for their daily survival. The eldest of four children, she decided to help the family by working at a garment factory in Yangon.

But life was still tough and Ma Thet Khaing Soe had big dreams. She was determined to improve the family house; she wanted her siblings to finish school; she wanted her mother and father to operate a food shop so their daily needs could be met.

The spunky, winsome village lass, who only finished elementary school, finally saw a chance to make her dreams come true by working as a maid in Singapore.

She heard about the government ban and the horror stories about maids being abused by their employers in the city state. Still she took a gamble.

Ma Thet Khaing Soe flew to Singapore last May with the help of the same broker who smuggled her cousin to the city state. She agreed to the broker’s terms of the first six months of her salary as the fee.

“We talked once on the phone after she got to Singapore. She told us her job was OK,” said Daw San San Aye.

But, she found out later that Ma Thet Khaing Soe had told her cousin about the hardships she faced, including not being fed well by her employer and taking care of seven dogs.

Later on, Ma Thet Khaing Soe called her cousin to ask her advice about how to go back home, as her working conditions were bad.

Ma Hla Hla Win (not her real name), who also works in Singapore, was among those who visited Ma Thet Khaing Soe while she was unconscious in the hospital in the city state in July.

Ma Hla Hla Win said she found out that Ma Thet Khaing Soe had been abandoned by her employer.

Ma Thet Khaing Soe was treated at the hospital for one and a half months with the help of a migrant rights organisation, Christian charity and other donors, according to Ma Hla Hla Win.

Daw San San Aye said the broker had told her in July that her daughter was just suffering an ordinary illness. It was only through social media that she learned the real condition of Ma Thet Khaing Soe. “I went crazy when I learned about the real situation,” she said.

In August last year, Ma Thet Khaing Soe was returned to Myanmar in a coma. She was treated for two months at Yangon General Hospital, but her condition did not improve.

In November, the family brought her back to the village as no one could take care of her at the hospital and hiring a caregiver was beyond their means.

Groups criticise ban

Migrant rights activists and workers feel that the government ban on sending maids to Singapore does not achieve its purpose and only results in the smuggling of domestic workers to the island, which exposes them to greater risk.

The government banned the sending of workers in Singapore in March 2014 amid disturbing reports of abuses and labour rights violations.

But an estimated 50,000 Myanmar maids are still working on the island, through the help of dishonest brokers and unlicensed agencies, according to the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) in Singapore and the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation.

Many of the maids are 14 to 20 years old, a violation of Singaporean law, which has a minimum age of 23 for foreign workers.

But the lure of working as a maid in Singapore is powerful, as they are paid up to S$450 (K510,000/US$334) per month, way beyond what they can earn in this country.

There are an estimated 240,000 foreign maids in Singapore. Among them, Myanmar maids are believed to be the most abused and exploited, since they are sent there illegally and do not have the necessary training and skills for household work, according to migrant rights activists.

Ma Hla Hla Win recalled that there was another Myanmar maid in the house where she was working who did not know how to iron clothes.

She said that other foreign maids, such as from the Philippines and Indonesia, are well-paid in Singapore as they are sent legally, have been well-trained, and have the full protection and support of their governments.

Ma Kitty Aye Mar Mar, a volunteer at HOME, said communication problems also led some employers to lose patience and beat Myanmar maids. She said that Myanmar maids have no access to language training.

Some Myanmar maids have been threatened by their agencies or brokers not to leave abusive employers.

“The maid ban exposes women working abroad to more trouble,” said Jackie Pollock, chief technical adviser for migration projects at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Myanmar.

Myanmar women who want jobs as maids are also charged exorbitant brokers fees because of the ban.

They have difficulty finding help and protection when they face problems, she said.

Pollock said the ILO is urging the government to lift the ban on sending domestic workers abroad so that the workers can be protected more effectively.

“If they sign a labour contract with the Singapore government, maids can have access to legal protections,” HOME volunteer Kitty Aye Mar Mar said.

The federation urged the Myanmar government to allow licensed overseas employment agencies to send domestic workers to Singapore.

U Myo Aung, permanent secretary of the Labour Ministry, said his office is discussing with employment agencies in Singapore how to protect Myanmar maids and ensure fair wages so that the ban can be lifted.

“Sending maids is not like sending other workers because each maid goes to a different employer,” U Myo Aung said.

If the discussions are successful, the Labour Ministry will likely lift the ban and sign a memorandum of understanding with Singapore on labour export.

A mother’s torment

Daw San San Aye despairs yet holds on to hope that one day Ma Thet Khaing Soe will wake up from her coma.

“We can’t send her to a clinic as we have no money. I can just hope that she would wake up one day,” she said.

Her family has gone into debt just to come up with the K400,000 they need each month to buy a special milk powder that her daughter needs.

Daw San San Aye said that she can only be thankful that her daughter has come back alive from Singapore as some Myanmar maids have returned from the island in wooden boxes or cremation urns.

“I am thankful I can still take care of my daughter. I will look after her like when she was a baby and hope that she wakes up one day. I will not expect her to work again if she wakes up. I just want to hear her jolly voice and have her keep me company in our house,” she said.

Written by Zaw Zaw Htwe
Source: Myanmar Times
Published on 22 March 2019
Link: https://www.mmtimes.com/news/lured-money-myanmar-maid-finds-ruin-singapore.html

[Malaysia] 1,485 illegals [sic] detained in nationwide integrated operation

KUALA LUMPUR: A total 1,485 illegals were detained in an integrated operation launched by the Immigration Department of Malaysia (IDM) nationwide from Friday midnight.IDM Director-General Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the detentions were the results of inspections by IDM with the co-operation of various agencies, including the National Registration Department and the Malaysia Civil Defence Force, on 3,750 aliens.“An operation conducted by the IDM headquarters nabbed 218 illegals from 418 aliens inspected at an entertainment centre and two houses in the Klang Valley for various immigration offences,’’ he said in a statement, Saturday.He said IDM had conducted 2,646 enforcement operations nationwide and inspected 40,321 people since Jan 1 until Thursday.

Of the total, 9,452 illegals of various nationalities were detained for numerous immigration offences, including overstaying, entering the country without valid documents and abusing the social visit passes.Khairul Dzaimee said 176 employers were also detained during the period while 151 had been charged in court and taken action upon.“From all the illegals detained, the highest detentions were from Indonesia (3,261), followed by Bangladesh (2,378), Myanmar (868), Philippines (849) and the rest were from other countries,’’ he said.

He said the Ministry of Home Affairs through IDM would take all the necessary steps and firm action to tackle the issue of illegals.He said the Government would not compromise in ensuring that employers and foreign workers complied with the country’s laws.The firm measure, he said, was necessary to overcome the problem of the influx of illegals into the country.

Source: Daily Express (Malaysia)
Published on 3 March 2019
Link: http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsId=131868
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