Category Archives: MMN Activities

MMN participation in SEA Junction’s panel discussion Safe from the Start

On 24 September, a panel discussion entitled Safe from the Start was organised by Southeast Asia (SEA) Junction. The event took place following the recent launch of MMN’s report, Safe from the Start: Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants. Panelists included Ms. Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator, Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Interior, Permanent Deputy Chair of National Committee for Counter Trafficking, Royal Government of Cambodia, Ms. Jackie Pollock, Technical Chief Director, International Labour Organisation, Myanmar and Ms. Marla Asis, Director, Research and Publications, Scalabrini Migration Centre, Philippines. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Rosalia Sciortino Sumaryono, Associate Professor, Mahidol University.

Firstly, Dr. Sciortino Sumaryono welcomed the panelists and participants, and explained that SEA Junction decided to organise this panel as it was inspired by the MMN study and saw that the roles of countries of  origin was a much neglected subject in the region. She also explained that the panel is part of the ASEAN People in Flux series in which SEA Junction aims to question the current migration scheme that is based on temporary contract employment and does not provide low skilled migrant workers with a right to bring their family members to destination countries or pathways to citizenship.

As the first panelist, Ms. Harima echoed the concern raised by Dr. Sciortino Sumaryono and shared the remark by Ms. Louise Arbour, UN Special Representative for International Migration, who said, during the Global Forum on Migration Development, held in Berlin in June 2017, that countries must go beyond looking at migration of professional workers as a desirable occurrence and something to be encouraged, and viewing migration of low skilled workers as something that is undesirable and should be discouraged or stopped. Ms. Louise Arbour said all migrant workers, both high skilled and low skilled, contribute to societies and economies. Ms. Harima then went through highlights of the MMN study on roles of countries of origin. She also presented the outcome of the MMN Policy Dialogue on Roles of Countries of Origin, which took place in Yangon, Myanmar, from 20-21 July 2017, which was the Cambodian and Myanmar governments agreeing to jointly negotiate with Thailand for better treatment and social protection of migrant workers.

Secondly, Ms. Asis shared experiences of the Philippines in trying to “manage” migration and providing much needed protection to overseas Filipino workers. She said that while there are comprehensive legislations and mechanisms to protect overseas Filipino migrants in place, there are still a number of challenges. She also said that having many policies is not necessarily effective.

Ms. Pollock followed by sharing recent efforts by the Myanmar government to facilitate migration. She explained that while there are urgent matters to be tackled such as the documentation of migrants, migration policy without long-term vision does not help improve the lives of people in Myanmar, and that migration policy needs to be designed as part of broader economic and social development policies.

Finally, H.E. Ms. Chou Bun Eng presented on Cambodia’s perspectives on roles of countries of origin. She said that Cambodia and Thailand share long land borders and thus migration governance models adopted by the Philippines– a country which is surrounded by the sea– often do not work for countries like Cambodia. She also said that international cooperation is necessary to make migration governance more effective.

During the open discussion, some participants commented on the gap between policy discourse, especially at the global level, and reality on the ground. Audience members also asked if the free movement of people may be one option for the Mekong Subregion. The event ended with Dr. Sciortino Sumaryono commenting that ASEAN needs to think outside the box to facilitate migration, and provide fair employment and life chances to ordinary people.


Photo Courtesy of SEA Junction (

Proceedings of MMN’s Policy Dialogue on Roles of Countries of Origin in Yangon, Myanmar, is now available online

From 20-21 July 2017, MMN organised a Policy Dialogue on Roles of Countries of Origin in Yangon, Myanmar.The objectives of the Policy Dialogue were the following:

  1. For MMN to share research findings and recommendations from its research on roles of countries of origin, including lessons that may be learnt from the Philippines and Indonesia’s experience on migration governance;
  2. For various stakeholders, including governments, private recruitment agencies, UN agencies, and civil society organisations, to share their perspectives on the roles countries of origin should play in making migration safer; and
  3. To provide a forum for various stakeholders to discuss a way forward for Myanmar and Cambodia.

Representatives of the Cambodian and Myanmar governments, along with representatives from the Philippine Embassy in Yangon, private recruitment agencies, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and CSOs from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines, gathered to hear research findings and recommendations from MMN’s most recent project and  publication, titled: “Safe from the Start: The roles of countries of origin in protecting migrants”. The Policy Dialogue also provided space for various stakeholders to discuss the roles countries of origin could increasingly play in protecting their nationals migrating abroad.

During the Policy Dialogue, Governments of Cambodia and Myanmar agreed to meet again to discuss a common country of origin agenda, with which to jointly advocate to the Thai Government and other countries of destination.

Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, and Permanent Deputy Chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking, offered to host this multi-stakeholder GMS Country of Origin Dialogue among the Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR governments by December 2017. The outcome of the Policy Dialogue is a significant and ground-breaking step for country of origin governments in Southeast Asia.


To view the full proceedings online in English, please visit: RoCoOPolicyDialogueProceedings


Highlights of the MMN Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin

Highlights of the MMN Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin, held in Yangon on the 20-21 July 2017.

For proceedings of the MMN Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin are being finalized, please visit our website later again for update information.

MMN’s new report, “Safe from the Start: Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants”, now available in Burmese, English, and Khmer. Please click on the links below to download the full report.

English version: Safe from the Start_English

Khmer version: Safe from the Start_Khmer

Burmese version: Safe from the Start_Burmese

MMIN in media: Migrant worker protections ‘lacking’, reports find ( Phnom Penh Post)

Cambodian migrant workers who were deported by Thai authorities are processed at the Poipet Transit Centre earlier this month in Banteay Meanchey province. Sahiba Chawdhary

Cambodia lacks effective mechanisms to protect its citizens working both as legal and undocumented migrants abroad, where such workers also face insufficient protection from the countries that receive them, according to two new reports published last week.

The reports come at a time of major crackdowns on undocumented migrants in the region. Thousands of Cambodians have returned home after Thailand passed new laws imposing strict punishments on undocumented workers and their employers, while Malaysia has arrested thousands of workers since July 1 in a campaign against undocumented migrants.

Mekong Migration Network’s (MMN) report Safe from the Start – The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants found in interviews with Cambodian migrant workers that the Kingdom needs to better regulate its recruitment agencies, reduce costs and time for legal migration channels, provide better overseas assistance and establish effective complaint mechanisms. They also recommend strengthening predeparture training.

Reiko Harima, MMN regional coordinator, said in an email that “the most urgent tasks for Cambodia are to improve overseas assistance, and also to negotiate with Thailand to improve conditions for migrant workers”.

“[Migrants] reported to MMN that when they have approached embassies for help, they were not given assistance,” she said. What’s more, she added, “Cambodian migrants leaving Thailand experience difficulty securing the social security benefits that they are entitled to, as there is no practical mechanism for the transfer of money.”

In a push to document migrant workers in Thailand, Cambodia’s Labour Ministry in a statement yesterday clarified the procedure: Thai employers have to register their undocumented Cambodian workers by August 7 at one of the 97 newly established offices in Thailand, where Cambodians workers then have to present themselves between August 8 and September 9. Until December 31, workers “must not change the employer or locations, or resign without permission”.

Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour in a Facebook video on Sunday said the procedure benefited the workers, who would “get the salary based on the law of Thailand, get health and life insurance during the work and get the National Social Security from the Thai government”.

But Moeun Tola, director of labour rights group Central, yesterday said that this was insufficient. “It’s not effective enough yet, since some employers prefer hiring undocumented workers instead of documented ones,” he said.

However, Cambodia doesn’t bear sole responsibility for protecting its migrants, according to a report titled Towards a Comprehensive National Policy on Labour Migration for Malaysia.

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition expressed concern regarding recruitment processes – which they say have to be formalised and regulated better – and a number of other issues facing migrant workers, including Cambodians, in Malaysia.

“[There] is no comprehensive national policy on labour migration, to ensure . . . that abuses against workers, social dislocation, profiteering, human trafficking and modern day slavery are rooted out and stopped,” it reads.

Adrian Pereira, a coordinator for the North-South Initiative who was involved in the drafting of the paper, said in a message that the most urgent concern was that agreements between Cambodia and Malaysia and workers’ contracts should “guarantee basic rights of workers at all stages of recruitment to employment to return”. “Only when rights [are] in black and white can we ensure [they are] materialised and not based on ‘good will’ of any party.”

These rights include decent salaries, working hours, vacation days and more, he said.

Tan Heang-Lee, communications’ officer at Women’s Aid Organisation Malaysia, said that women were particularly vulnerable. “There must be greater recognition of domestic work as work, and of domestic workers as employees,” she said. “Migrant domestic workers are excluded from many of the protections and provisions of the Employment Act.”


By: Leonie Kijewski and Soth Koemsoeun, Phnom Penh Post

Published on: 25 July 2017



PRESS RELEASE: MMN’s Policy Dialogue results in the governments of Myanmar and Cambodia vowing to collaborate to protect migrants

24 July 2017

During the Mekong Migration Network’s (MMN) two-day Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin, representatives of the Cambodian and Myanmar governments vowed to meet to discuss recommendations to jointly advocate to the government of Thailand for greater protection of migrant workers. The act of collaboration was prompted by Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, and Permanent Deputy Chair of the National Committee For Counter Trafficking, who also agreed to host the meeting before 17 December 2017.

From 20-21 July, MMN, a sub-regional network of civil society organisations (CSOs) and research institutes, held a Policy Dialogue at the Summit Parkview hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Representatives of the Cambodian and Myanmar governments, private recruitment agencies, the Philippine Embassy in Yangon, ILO, IOM, and CSOs from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines gathered to hear research findings and recommendations from MMN’s most recent project and publication, and discuss the roles countries of origin – particularly Cambodia and Myanmar – should play in protecting their nationals migrating abroad.

From April 2015 to May 2017, MMN conducted a research project to review the labour migration governance mechanisms of countries of origin, including national policies, common practices, and international standards. Through consultation meetings with 162 migrant workers in Thailand and returnees in Cambodia and Myanmar, along with interviews with Cambodian and Myanmar government officials, inter-governmental organisations, and recruitment agencies, the study analysed the policies and practices of these two origin countries.

MMN’s study also investigated measures put in place by the Philippines and Indonesia to protect their nationals migrating abroad. Through a case study analysis of Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong, the study gleaned information on both effective and ineffective labour migration governance mechanisms, which aided MMN’s development of recommendations posed to the governments of Cambodia and Myanmar.

Director General U Win Shein of Myanmar’s Department of Labour under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, opened the Policy Dialogue declaring, “countries of origin should work to reduce the time and bureaucracy required for the migration process, provide education and information, improve the quality of life of migrants, and ultimately aim to reduce poverty for migrants…We want to collaborate and get recommendations from different sectors, as well as listen to one another through positive and active communication so that we can provide better resources to protect migrant workers.”

Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, the Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, and Permanent Deputy Chair of the National Committee For Counter Trafficking, called for fairer collaboration between origin and destination countries, especially given that origin countries often “run behind the decisions of destination countries like Thailand.” She explained that Cambodia “tries our best to overcome these complicated issues, however, Cambodia alone cannot solve the problem successfully.”

International Labour Organization Chief Technical Advisor Ms. Jackie Pollock reminded participants, “without a long-term vision for migration patterns, migration may lead to the stagnation of development with young people leaving the country taking their labour, ideas, and innovations with them. On the other hand, national and regional development policies, whether they are social and economic plans, rural development, or women’s empowerment, could embrace migration as one of the strategies to stimulate development, nationally and regionally.”

In order to better protect and promote the rights of migrant workers, MMN recommends that relevant Cambodian and Myanmar authorities:

  1. Institute migration mechanisms through which prospective migrants can obtain necessary documents for migration without excessive bureaucracy, cost, or travel;
  2. Establish effective complaint mechanisms which are accessible to all migrants both in destination countries and upon return, and facilitate the use of local complaint mechanisms where appropriate;
  3. Negotiate with and advocate to destination countries to improve conditions for migrant workers;
  4. Make greater efforts to disseminate information on safe migration, migration options, and alternatives to migration throughout the country;
  5. Provide meaningful regulation of recruitment agencies; not merely through the passing of laws and regulations, but effective monitoring and enforcement, including sanctions for non-compliance;
  6. Improve the quality and expand the delivery of pre-departure training so that all formal migrants go through effective and thorough training before deployment;
  7. Improve overseas assistance;
  8. Negotiate with the Thai government to develop a process whereby migrants can receive a lump sum payment for their retirement fund at the Social Security Office in Thailand; and
  9. Assist migrant worker returnees with social and economic integration, including making alternatives to re-migration available; assisting with processes such as household registration and registration for identity cards; and supporting returnees who have suffered occupational injuries or diseases.


MMN’S PUBLICATION: Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants

To access MMN’s latest publication, Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants, in English, Burmese, or Khmer, please visit:



The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is a sub-regional network of CSOs and research institutes that has been working towards the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights in the Mekong Sub-region since 2001. MMN members operate in both countries of origin and destination, and have unique expertise in the field and close contact with migrant workers at a grassroots level. MMN also has regular dialogue with government stakeholders in Cambodia and Myanmar, which prompted the present in-depth study on the roles of countries of origin.

For more information about MMN, please visit our webpage at:



For more information about the project, publication, or policy dialogue, please contact:

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