Category Archives: MMN Activities
Press Release: Launch of THE PRECARIOUS STATUS OF MIGRANTS IN THAILAND: Reflections on the Exodus of Cambodian Migrants and Lessons Learnt
10 December 2014
THE PRECARIOUS STATUS OF MIGRANTS IN THAILAND:
Reflections on the Exodus of Cambodian Migrants and Lessons Learnt
On 9 December 2014, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) launched the report “The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand: Reflections on the Exodus of Cambodian Migrants and Lessons Learnt.” The launch was attended by 45 people, including the representatives of the Cambodian government, Civil Society Organisations, International NGOs and members of the media.
The launch was started with welcome remarks made by Ms Pok Panhavichetre, Executive Director of the Cambodian Women Crisis Centre (CWCC). Ms Pok as well as the Master of Ceremony, Mr Sokchar Mom of the Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), and Ms Reiko Harima, the Regional Coordinator of the Mekong Migration Network, first introduced the background of the research. They explained that beginning in June 2014, Thailand witnessed the departure of huge numbers of Cambodian migrant workers who were deported or left voluntarily in fear of government crackdowns. In anticipation of an eventual return of these migrants back to Thailand, and hoping that they would do so through a formal channel, both Thailand and Cambodia swiftly introduced a number of policy reforms to make legal migration channels more accessible. MMN and its partner organisations believed it was critical to ensure that these rapidly developing responses reflected the voices of migrants and their families, and decided to conduct a series of interviews for this purpose. Interviews were carried out by the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC), Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodian Women for Peace and Development (CWPD), and Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), in Banteay Meachey, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, and Kandal provinces.
While the study was being carried out in these areas, large numbers of migrant returnees started going back to Thailand. Therefore MMN extended the scope of its work and carried out interviews with those who had returned to Thailand, their employers and local government officials in Thailand. The interviews on the Thai side were carried out in Trat, Rayong and Sa Kaeo.
Ms Omsin Boonlert, Research and Advocacy Officer of the MMN, and Mr Sopheap Suong, Poi Pet Program Manager of the CWCC, presented the highlights of the research findings. They noted that Cambodian migrants’ top two concerns while migrating are the cost and the legality or otherwise of their actions.
“Previously, I could not afford to pay the registration fees, but I thought being undocumented would not really affect my life in Thailand. However, I just realized that if I am not registered, the army will arrest us.” (Cambodian migrant man in his 20s, who used to be employed in construction work in Sa Kaeo Province. Interviewed in Cha Cheng Sao Province on 18 August 2014)
Migrants’ willingness to migrate through legal channels in fact appears to have grown stronger since the exodus. However, many face significant financial obstacles in doing so, and the issue is exacerbated by the fact that many migrants are receiving below the minimum wage.
At the launch, the guest speaker, her Honourable Excellency Ms Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Interior, Royal Government of Cambodia, stated that migration governance needs to be framed in a broader development context, including human resource development. For example, there may be employment opportunities within the country, but people cannot benefit from them without the education and skills required to do these jobs. She expressed her wish that this gap be reduced so that people have the option of either working in Cambodia or migrating abroad. She also expressed her appreciation for the MMN report, mentioning that the MMN report is unique in comparison to other studies on the issue, particularly in regards to its focus on policy updates and migrants’ perspectives on migration mechanisms. As such, it is a useful reference for policy makers.
Mr. Choub Narath, Deputy Director General, Department of Employment and Manpower, Ministry of Labour, Royal Government of Cambodia also provided updates on the Cambodian government policies on labour migration and its efforts in registering its nationals working in Thailand. Mr Choub Narath commented on the difficulty of anticipating the migration policies of Thailand in the longer term, which in turn makes it challenging for the Cambodian government to plan for outgoing migration on a long term basis.
Finally, Ms. Reiko Harima shared MMN’s reflections on the situation. She said that the incident was a stark reminder that migrant workers are the backbone of Thailand’s economy. However, despite longstanding dependence on migrant labour in many industries, migration policies in Thailand continue to fail to provide a long term and sustainable response to the millions of migrant workers in the country. She also noted the lack of confidence among migrants in law enforcement institutions as a result of the authorities’ emphasis on controlling the migration population while doing little to protect them. She said that if efforts to promote legal migration channels are to be successful, it is important that all stakeholders work towards restoring migrants’ trust in the authorities, as only then will government efforts be supported by the migrant workers themselves.
The full report is available on the MMN Webpage at:
English version [5.5 MB]
Khmer version [1.8 MB]
For further information, please contact: *Reiko Harima, MMN and Asian Migrant Centre (AMC) (English and Japanese), Hong Kong: firstname.lastname@example.org / +852 23120031; *Omsin (Plaii) Boonlert (English and Thai), MMN, Thailand: email@example.com / +66-53-283259; or *Sopheap Suong (English and Khmer), Cambodian Women Crisis Centre (CWCC), Cambodia: BMCmanager@cwcc.org.kh / +85512969538
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Thai and Cambodian governments need to reform migration policies to prevent a repeat of June’s exodus that saw up to 300,000 Cambodians leave Thailand, migrant groups said Tuesday.
Workers from neighboring Cambodia fled Thailand following the May 22 military coup amid widespread rumors that the army and police were planning a crack down on illegal workers.
The rumors were fuelled by comments from an army spokesman who said illegal laborers were a threat to Thailand and threatened to deport anyone without papers.
The subsequent flood of people crossing the border into Cambodia was “one of the biggest movements of people since the 1970s in Southeast Asia,” Reiko Harima, regional coordinator of the Mekong Migration Network, said.
Harima was speaking at the launch of a report, “The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand,” by the network, an umbrella group of regional NGOs.
Pok Panhavichetr, executive director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, said interviews with 67 returned workers highlighted concerns about the cost of legal migration.
“Many migrants are receiving below the minimum wage,” she said. “The report introduces recommendations addressing the Thai and Cambodian governments, as well as the wider ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community, to learn from this experience and develop a more sustainable migration policy.”
Approximately 80 percent of Cambodian workers in Thailand are undocumented, according to Suong Sopheap, a program manager for the network based in the border city of Poipet.
A large demand for unskilled labor in Thailand and a lack of jobs and low pay in Cambodia fuel the westward migration of Cambodians, the vast majority of whom work on construction sites or in factories.
The report found “most migrants do not wish to abide by the law and obtain legal status in Thailand” because “many are currently finding the existing formal migration channels too expensive or inaccessible.”
The Cambodian government recently announced a reduction in the cost of passports for migrant workers from the equivalent of $124 to $4.
By Lauren Crothers
Published on 9 December 2014
Press release: Mekong Migration Network launches the illustrated book “Dragon Lake” and lesson plans on the history of migration
On 27 and 28 October 2014, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in collaboration with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University, and the Foundation for Migrants from the Mekong Neighbourhood held a Mekong Symposium on Migration titled “Embracing Diversity: Seeking Multicultural Values and Mutual Understanding.” The symposium was attended by over 50 people including representatives from the Thai Ministry of Education, community based organisations, international NGOs, intergovernmental organisations, educational institutions and universities.
The symposium theme was a follow through from the Symposium on Living Together organised by MMN in February 2013, which focused on the issues of integration and social cohesion of migrants in the Mekong region. The Symposium on Embracing Diversity this week focused on the need for understanding multicultural values in order to achieve social cohesion, peace and human security in the region. Participants agreed that it is important to promote multiculturalism and that teaching this value in schools would help cultivate tolerance and celebrate diversity throughout society.
Also discussed at the Symposium were the specific challenges faced by migrants in the Mekong region, including limited educational and work opportunities, exploitation and abuse, and social problems such as discrimination, stigma, and social exclusion.
During the symposium, two educational materials developed by the MMN were launched. The first was an illustrated book for children aged 6-7 years old, entitled “Dragon Lake.” The story follows a community of dragons who have a variety of characteristics and explores the importance of living together with neighbours who have different ways of life. The story is written in Thai, Burmese, Shan, Khmer, Lao, and English. The second educational material launched was a set of lesson plans on the history of migration in the Mekong region for children aged 10-11. Through participating in these interactive lessons, children are expected to learn that migration has always been a natural part of human history and continues to form an integral part of today’s interconnected world.
Representatives of Thailand’s Office of the Basic Education Commission fully participated in the Symposium. In response to the introduction of the above-mentioned educational materials, they stated that they were very inspired by the development of such materials, and that they believed that learning about migration was very important for children in the region. They also stated that the lessons on the history of migration could be integrated very well into the Thai curriculum on social studies.
The Symposium ended with participants proposing several future key actions that they would work on in order to further the aim of promoting social inclusion of migrants and celebrating the benefits of diversity. These included the following:
1. Develop an animated film version of the picture book “Dragon Lake” to enable wider circulation;
2. Develop more illustrated books on migration for children, including for children who stay in their countries of origin;
3. Advocate for the recognition of teachers in migrant learning centres and the provision of teaching and lesson planning materials for them;
4. With the aim of rolling out the lesson plan in all GMS countries, participant organisations will review current relevant initiatives in their home countries and hold consultations.
Secretariat Chiang Mai office: +(66)53 283259
PDF versions of the PowerPoints presentations are available below:
Dragon Lake Book Feedback Forms
Employment agencies could be facing a conflict of interest in taking over the training of Myanmar citizens preparing to work overseas, a migrant workers’ advocate has warned.
Reiko Harima, managing director of the Asian Migrant Centre, said the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agency Federation (MOEAF) increased their members’ profits by sending more workers overseas, and so was “unlikely” to provide information that might deter them from going.
Pre-departure training, which is conducted in Yankin township, Yangon, is meant to inform migrants of the labour laws and cultural norms of the countries they are being sent to. Previously run by the Ministry of Labour, the MOEAF began conducting the courses on August 31.
“Employment agencies are unlikely to provide information that might put migrants off going overseas,” such as details of low pay and long hours, Ms Harima said.
She said the decision to allow employment agencies to regulate much of the migration process in Indonesia and Cambodia, which send thousands of workers abroad each year, had negatively affected prospective workers.
“These include recruitment when not enough jobs are actually secured by agencies, resulting in a long waiting period for workers” and insufficient information about workers’ rights, she said.
“Employment agencies might decide to not recruit migrants who are confident about demanding their rights,” she said.
MOEAF vice chair U Soe Myint Aung said controlling training would lead to better supervision of migrants. He also said that because the agency negotiates labour agreements with its foreign counterparts it was best suited to train the migrants.
But Ms Harima said protecting the migrants was a job for governments. “It’s rather unrealistic to expect agencies to play a front-line role in protecting domestic workers’ rights. It is the responsibility of governments to protect their citizens and workers, and it should be the government’s responsibility to strictly monitor the operation of recruitment agencies.”
By: Bill O’Toole, Myanmar Times