Category Archives: MMN Activities

MMN at the International Migrants Day 2016, Chiang Mai, Thailand

On the occasion of International Migrants Day, more than 200 participants, including CSOs that promote migrants’ right, academics in Chiang Mai, and migrant workers representatives, gathered in the seminar held on 18th – 19th December 2016, at the UNISERVE, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Throughout the day on the 18th December, the participants, in majority migrant workers, discussed and shared their experiences. The morning session started with the opening speech by the organizing committee, followed by the presentation on “Visual Storytelling”, a collaborating project between MAP Foundation, Prachatham and Workers Solidarity Association (WSA).

Next, participants were divided into different groups to identify concerns and challenges they have been facing, as well as suggesting practical recommendations. There were 10 topics to be discussed including migrant workers documentations, migrant dependents such as children and elderly, migrant employment permit and Working of Alien Act, Non-Thai citizen status & card, Social Security Scheme, wages and labour protections, Occupational Safety and Health, MOU and recruitment agencies, access to justice, and trade union and collective bargaining. The outcomes from the group discussions were presented to lawyers, scholars and NGOs so that they could contribute giving comments, inputs and suggestions on how to consolidate the group suggestions into concrete recommendations.

On the 19th December 2016, the participants collectively finalized the statement to be presented to the Governor of Chiang Mai, followed by press release at the UNISERVE, Chiang Mai Thailand.

In the afternoon, the Northern Labour Network, comprised of 15 Civil Society Organizations that promote migrants’ rights, academics in Chiang Mai, and migrant workers representatives, gathered at the Chiang Mai City Hall to hand in the recommendations for International Migrants Day. About 150 people joined the parade and delivered the recommendations to the Vice-Governor of Chiang Mai. The recommendations were addressed both on the local and national level and included protecting migrant workers rights’ regardless of their documentation status, to resolve the regulations which limit the mobility of migrant workers and to allow migrant workers to work in any occupation according to their abilities. Some of the recommendations were also addressed to the Government of Myanmar, asking the Labour Attaché to become more involved in the monitoring of labour conditions and to treat migrant workers without discrimination of ethnicity or immigration status.

The statement of International Migrants Day 2016 is available in Thai and English.

ข้อเรียกร้องเนื่องในวันแรงงานข้ามชาติสากล [202 KB]

Recommendations for International Migrants Day 2016 [263 KB]

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The IMD 2016 activity was covered by the following news:

The Irrawaddy: http://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/burmese-migrant-workers-in-thailand-demand-greater-rights-protection.html

‘Decent work’ still a dream for many in Asean

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Cambodians pass through the checkpoint in Sa Kaeo province to enter Thailand. Photo: Patipat Jan thong

 

Thailand, Asean and the Mekong Subregion still do not have decent rights-based regulations and safety nets in place to ensure justice for migrants, say non-government organisations.

The question of “decent work” resonates among migrant workers on a global level and in Thailand, said Brahm Press, director of the Migrants Assistance Program (MAP) Foundation based in Chiang Mai.

“Many countries restrict the type of work migrants can do, regardless of whether or not they have skills,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Dhaka Bangladesh last week. “In many of the ‘unskilled’ jobs migrants do, they are considered disposable rather than as workers who can increase productivity through skills development.”

Migrant workers, he said, systematically received less than a living wage, forcing them to work excessive hours; even then, they may not even receive the minimum wage.

In Thailand and many other countries in Asia, migrants are stuck under an inflexible policy that requires them to remain with a single employer in a single type of job in one location in order to remain with a single employer in a single type of job in one location in order to remain documented.

In reality, employers use their workers for multiple jobs, often in different locations. And when migrants feel cheated or abused, it is easier to just run away and become undocumented than it is to try and formally change employers, file charges and remain documented, noted Mr Press.

“There are those migrants who will get an agent to register as their employer in order to have flexibility in their job options. On the other hand, migrant workers have been made more temporary as part of a ‘flexible workforce’ where employers have less and less direct responsibility for their workers through subcontracting,” he said.

When there are economic shocks, migrants are the first to lose their jobs, and they rarely receive unemployment benefits, said Mr Press.

For migrants in Thailand, he said, their home countries do not yet have social protections to accommodate unemployed, incapacitated or retired migrants who return home, and their economies are not able to accommodate them either.

“Migrants are left in a precarious and uncertain position — in destination countries and back home.”

Omsin Boonlert, of the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) advocacy team, added that migrants are often treated as “temporary” in jobs that entail lengthy working hours, without knowing how temporary their status could be.

The MMN has submitted an eight-page statement at the Dhaka conference to highlight the issue of private recruitment agencies.

These agencies or brokers are mostly exploitative given the power imbalance in the relationship between workers and agencies, said Ms Omsin.

Abuses by agencies included overcharging (for passports), or charging for services not provided, offering usurious loans, and debt bondage, she said.

They usually failed to fulfill responsibilities to provide appropriate training and medical checks, falsified documents on underage workers, or substituted contracts for a destination with unagreed terms, the MMN report said.

The largest movement of migrant workers within the Greater Mekong Subregion is to Thailand — from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

“Interstate cooperation is important to improve the welfare of migrant workers. This applies not only to countries of origin and countries of destination but given that many different actors take part in international labour migration which is multi jurisdictional, strong cooperation between governments, employers, agencies and civil society should help reduce inconsistency of policy regulations,” said the MMN statement.

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants has called for collaborative work on an ethical recruitment system. The International labour Organization has also suggested that Asean members could in the future establish a regional common code of conduct for recruitment agencies.

In this regard, better data collection and sharing on recruitment practices and exploitative agencies would help minimise the problems, the MMN said.

“If necessary, governments should also work toward a policy of zero recruitment fees and reduce the role of local brokers in the recruitment process. National governments must strongly pursue regulations and enforcement to eliminate the practice of contract substitution,” said the statement.

“All in all, strictly enact and implement the laws in line with international standards,” said Ms Omsin.

Cambodia

As of July 2016, 132,442 Cambodians in Thailand had migrated through the formal system under a bilateral agreement, but the majority still came through informal channels.

Laos

The majority of Lao migrant workers come to Thailand by informal means on their own, with a minority — 20% of men and 8% of women — using an unlicensed broker to travel to the border. Just 25% of all workers use a broker in Thailand to travel from the border to a job site. As of 2013, there were 12 licensed recruitment agencies in Laos.

Myanmar

The Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation this year adopted a voluntary code of conduct that participating agencies will adhere to. In August this year, 129 Myanmar-registered agencies signed an agreement with the government to abide by national legislation and be subject to compliance monitoring.

Vietnam

In 2013, there were more than 180 recruitment agencies licensed to send workers to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and other countries. An ILO survey found that many Vietnamese workers were unhappy with their migration experience but didn’t complain. Of those who did, only 30% received a response.

Source: Mekong Migration Network Policy Brief

 

By: Achara Ashayagachat, Bangkok Post

Published on: 12 December 2016

Japanese Language of Beyond “Tolerance”: Living Together with Migrants – A Multimedia Documentary

PRESS RELEASE: Beyond “Tolerance”: Living Together with Migrants – A Photo Exhibition & Documentary Launch in Yangon, Myanmar

On Friday, 28 October 2016, the social inclusion of migrants and migrant returnees was collectively endorsed at the Mekong Migration Network’s (MMN’s) opening event of “Beyond ‘Tolerance’: Living Together with Migrants,” a photo exhibition and multimedia documentary, held at Myanmar Deitta gallery in Yangon.

At the event, Amyotha Hluttaw Member of Parliament U Kyaw Htwe, U Ko Ko Gyi and Daw Thet Thet Aung of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Deputy Director Daw May Thu Nyo of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, Chief Technical Advisor Ms. Jackie Pollock of the International Labour Organization, Regional Manager Mr. Sopheap Suong of the Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center, returning Myanmar migrant Daw Thiri, documentary photographer Mr. John Hulme, and Research Officer Ms. Carli Melo of the Mekong Migration Network discussed the issue of promoting social inclusion among migrant returnees in Myanmar.

“We need to create jobs that are useful for them [migrants] here. When they come back [to Myanmar] they usually can’t find any jobs and need to return. This becomes a cycle. We need to break this cycle,” U Kyaw Htwe, Amyotha Hluttaw MP and President of the Domestic and International Labour Committee, told the media at the event.

U Ko Ko Gyi, General Secretary and prominent leader of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, stressed the need to recognize the skills that migrants gain abroad and apply these skills to the national development of Myanmar. In his presentation, U Ko Ko Gyi asserted, “Migrants are building this country. We must ensure that they are also building a better life.”

Ms. Jackie Pollock of ILO-Yangon spoke of the alienation felt by migrants in Singapore who are “looked down upon, pitied, and disrespected.” She explained, “The stigma runs so deep that women said they never told their families that they were domestic workers; they said they were teachers and shop workers.” Her presentation highlighted the exclusionary effects of temporary migration policies and the need to amend such policies in order to promote inclusion amongst migrant communities.

Representing the Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center – an MMN member organization – Mr. Sopheap Suong remarked on the similarities between the situation of migrant returnees in Myanmar and Cambodia, which include migrant returnees’ limited access to adequate health services and financial support and the lack of absentee voting systems.

Daw Thet Thet Aung of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society proposed recommendations to the Government of Myanmar, which are outlined in MMN’s Advocacy Paper titled: “Permanently Temporary: Examining the Impact of Social Exclusion on Mekong Migrants.” These recommendations include simplifying requirements to secure national identity cards, establishing more formal and appropriate educational provisions for migrants and their families, providing psycho-social and financial support, and recognizing the qualifications and certifying the skills acquired by migrants.

Daw Thiri concluded the presentations by sharing her experience migrating to Japan under the Technical Intern Training Program. After experiencing a reduction in her wage and breach of contract, Daw Thiri sued Myanmar employment agencies Htay Service and Myanmar Express Link as well as Japanese agents.

Around 70 audience members occupied Myanmar Deitta on Friday afternoon representing civil society organizations, labour unions, the Government of Myanmar, and the local press. The event included the launch of MMN’s Myanmar-language multimedia documentary and was succeeded by a two-day photo exhibition – both of which showcase images of migrants’ daily lives in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Japan captured by documentary photographer Mr. John Hulme.

* * *

Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is a sub-regional network of civil society organizations working towards the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (website: www.mekongmigration.org, phone/fax: +6653-283259).

This event and exhibition were part of a wider project supported by the Toyota Foundation. Prior to this event, the photos were exhibited in Bangkok, Thailand, from 8-16 October at SEA Junction and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from 21-23 October at Meta House (German Cambodian Cultural Center).

For interviews or more information please contact:

  • (English language) Rebecca Napier-Moore, Mekong Migration Network Associate, rebecca_napier@yahoo.com, ph +66888936068.
  • (Myanmar language) Thet Thet Aung, 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, thet2aung@the88generation.org, ph +959794932344.
  • (Thai language) Omsin (Plaii) Boonlert, Mekong Migration Network Research and Advocacy Officer, plaii@mekongmigration.org, ph +66869238313.

To view photos and the multimedia documentary online, and to access more information on migration in the Mekong, go to: www.mekongmigration.org.

 

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The event has been covered by several Myanmar local news agencies and can access from the links below:

Myanmar Times: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/lifestyle/23342-beyond-tolerance-exhibition-captures-migrant-struggles.html    (English Language)

DVB: http://www.dvb.no/news/interview-migrants-need-tell-story/72125 (English Language)

Kamayut Media: http://www.kamayutmedia.com/lifestyle/social/9590 (Burmese Language)

Beyond “Tolerance”: Living Together with Migrants – A Mekong Migration Network Photo Exhibition & Documentary Launch in Yangon, Myanmar

Despite the crucial role migrant workers play in the functioning of economies, many governments formulate policies based on the notion that migration is a purely temporary phenomenon. These policies often work to reinforce the social exclusion of migrants and their families.

On Friday, 28 October 2016, the social inclusion of migrants and migrant returnees was collectively endorsed at the Mekong Migration Network’s (MMN’s) opening event of “Beyond ‘Tolerance’: Living Together with Migrants,” a photo exhibition and multimedia documentary, held at Myanmar Deitta gallery in Yangon.

Carli Melo of the Mekong Migration Network introducing the photo exhibition and multimedia documentary at the opening event in Yangon.

Carli Melo of the Mekong Migration Network introducing the photo exhibition and multimedia documentary at the opening event in Yangon.

At the event, Amyotha Hluttaw Member of Parliament U Kyaw Htwe, U Ko Ko Gyi and Daw Thet Thet Aung of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Deputy Director Daw May Thu Nyo of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, Chief Technical Advisor Ms. Jackie Pollock of the International Labour Organization, Regional Manager Mr. Sopheap Suong of the Cambodia Women’s Crisis Centre, returning Myanmar migrant Daw Thiri, documentary photographer Mr. John Hulme, and Research Officer Ms. Carli Melo of the Mekong Migration Network discussed the issue of promoting social inclusion among migrant returnees in Myanmar.

Deputy Director Daw May Thu Nyo of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population speaking about labour migration at the opening event.

Deputy Director Daw May Thu Nyo of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population speaking about labour migration at the opening event.

“We need to create jobs that are useful for them [migrants] here. When they come back [to Myanmar] they usually can’t find any jobs and need to return. This becomes a cycle. We need to break this cycle,” U Kyaw Htwe, Amyotha Hluttaw MP and President of the Domestic and International Labour Committee, told the media at the event.

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U Kyaw Htwe, Amyotha Hluttaw MP and President of the Domestic and International Labour Committee, opening the event.

U Ko Ko Gyi, General Secretary and prominent leader of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, stressed the need to recognize the skills that migrants gain abroad and apply these skills to the national development of Myanmar. In his presentation, U Ko Ko Gyi asserted, “Migrants are building this country. We must ensure that they are also building a better life.”

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U Ko Ko Gyi, General Secretary and prominent leader of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, presenting at the opening event.

Ms. Jackie Pollock of ILO-Yangon spoke of the alienation felt by migrants in Singapore who are “looked down upon, pitied, and disrespected.” She explained, “The stigma runs so deep that women said they never told their families that they were domestic workers; they said they were teachers and shop workers.” Her presentation highlighted the exclusionary effects of temporary migration policies and the need to amend such policies in order to promote inclusion amongst migrant communities.

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Chief Technical Advisor Ms. Jackie Pollock of the International Labour Organization presenting at the opening event.

Representing the Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center – an MMN member organization – Mr. Sopheap Suong remarked on the similarities between the situation of migrant returnees in Myanmar and Cambodia, which include migrant returnees’ limited access to adequate health services and financial support and the lack of absentee voting systems.

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Regional Manager Mr. Sopheap Suong of the Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center speaking about the similarities between the situation of migrant returnees in Myanmar and Cambodia.

Daw Thet Thet Aung of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society proposed recommendations to the Government of Myanmar, which are outlined in MMN’s Advocacy Paper titled: “Permanently Temporary: Examining the Impact of Social Exclusion on Mekong Migrants.” These recommendations include simplifying requirements to secure national identity cards, establishing more formal and appropriate educational provisions for migrants and their families, providing psycho-social and financial support, and recognizing the qualifications and certifying the skills acquired by migrants.

Daw Thet Thet Aung, Head of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society’s Labour Department, speaking to the local press about the project.

Daw Thet Thet Aung, Head of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society’s Labour Department, speaking to the local press about the project.

Daw Thiri concluded the presentations by sharing her experience migrating to Japan under the Technical Intern Training Program. After experiencing a reduction in her wage and breach of contract, Daw Thiri sued Myanmar employment agencies Htay Service and Myanmar Express Link as well as Japanese agents.

Daw Thiri sharing her experience migrating to Japan under the Technical Intern Training Program.

Daw Thiri sharing her experience migrating to Japan under the Technical Intern Training Program.

Around 70 audience members occupied Myanmar Deitta on Friday afternoon representing civil society organizations, labour unions, the Government of Myanmar, and the local press. The event included the launch of MMN’s Myanmar-language multimedia documentary and was succeeded by a two-day photo exhibition – both of which showcased images of migrants’ daily lives in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Japan captured by documentary photographer Mr. John Hulme.

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This event and exhibition were part of a wider project supported by the Toyota Foundation titled, “Beyond ‘Tolerance’: Working Hand-in-Hand to Promote the Social Inclusion of Migrants and Their Families.” The other major components of this project included country visits to Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Japan, talks and photo exhibitions in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and the publication of “Permanently Temporary: Examining the Impact of Social Exclusion on Mekong Migrants.”
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