Category Archives: MMN Activities
On 18 December 2015, at the Holiday Garden Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand, participants gathered to celebrate the 25TH International Migrant’s Day. This year’s theme was “Living Wages”, in a bid to highlight the gap between the cost of living and wages earned by migrant workers. MMN and partner organisations including Workers Solidarity Association (WSA), MAP Foundation, Shan Youth Power (SYP), Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), Migrant Workers Federation (MWF), Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), and EMPOWER foundation jointly organized the event. 138 participants attended including migrant workers, civil society organisation (CSOs), academics, government representatives from Myanmar, and representatives from relevant Chiang Mai offices.
Mr. Puttipong Sirimat, Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, gave the opening speech in which he emphasized the important contributions of migrant workers to the economy in Chiang Mai province. He observed that Thailand’s aging population and slowing birthrate make migrant workers vital to strengthen Thailand’s stagnating economic growth and shrinking labour force. In addition, Mr. Sirimat highlighted the challenges to solving the problem of labour exploitation that migrant workers still face.
The opening speech was followed by a stage performance by migrant workers who presented the issues of working conditions and wages experienced by migrant workers in various sectors such as agriculture, construction, factory, domestic work and services. For the finale, the performers demanded a living wage, safety and health at the workplace and social welfare.
Next, participants were divided into four groups to discuss the issues faced by migrant workers in Chiang Mai. Among the topics discussed were: wages and social welfare, exploitation, problems at the immigration office and developing the recommendation address to the governments of Myanmar and Thailand. The outcomes from the group discussions were incorporated into the statement presented to the government representatives of Myanmar and the governor of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The afternoon activity was the panel discussion “Economic Rights of Migrants is Human Rights”. Contributors discussed the current economic conditions of migrant workers in Chiang Mai, the services provided by the governments of Myanmar and Thailand to improve migrant workers’ economic benefits and what policies need to be changed. The panelists included migrant workers, representatives of the government of Myanmar, Chiang Mai labour authorities, and migrant advocacy groups in Chiang Mai.
Mr. Sai Phyu from Workers Solidarity Association (WSA) highlighted the fact that many migrant workers earn wages lower than the cost of living, and that many migrants, especially women in domestic work, have long working days with low wages, no social security/health insurance, no days off and no maternity leave, etc. He called for the effective enforcement of labour laws and the protection of migrant workers’ rights. Mr. Oom Khur, representative of Migrant Workers Federation (MFR), added that many migrant workers have limited knowledge about how to manage their finances, especially with their extremely low incomes, and that the cost of living such as education for children, social costs and extra-fees for government services present many challenges to migrants’ financial management.
Mr. San Yu Kyaw, Consul/First Secretary of the Consulate General of Myanmar, pointed out that migrant workers significantly contribute to the development of Myanmar, and reviewed the assistance services for migrant workers in Thailand provided by the Myanmar government. Capt. Jaran Khunyosying, Labour Specialist, Senior Professional Level, Representative of Chiang Mai Provincial Labour Protection and Welfare Office, discussed labour laws and noted that all migrant workers will be equally protected under Thai labour laws. Ms. Rujira Chomphupan, Senior Labour Specialist, Representative of Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Office, emphasized that work permits are required for all migrants living and working in Thailand, hence migrant workers should closely pay attention to the government registration announcements and processes to ensure that they obtain the proper documents. Ms. Sukanta Sukpaita, Representative of Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), shared the challenges to basic survival for minimum wage earners in Thailand, and pointed out that these challenges are greater for migrant workers who receive less than the minimum wage. She concluded her remarks by demanding that the Thai government respect migrant workers’ rights, ensure the fair treatment of migrant workers in accordance with the international standard, and urged the governing bodies of ASEAN to recognize migrant workers’ capabilities and sufferings by allowing their freedom of employment under the AEC. Subsequently, Thai regulations and Myanmar government services were clarified in detail during the question and answer session.
Ms. Sukanta Sukpaita concluded the event by reading a statement on behalf of the event organizers, and a statement by the migrant worker representatives to the representatives of the government of Myanmar and the representatives of Chiang Mai officials.
Today, 18 December 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW). This is an apt opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution migrants make to both the societies they live in and the countries they have left behind. Over many years, millions of migrants have powered the social and economic development of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). In this ever more interconnected region, patterns of migration are becoming increasingly complex, with migrants today forming the backbone of national economies, across both formal and informal sectors. However, their work continues to be undervalued and characterised by low wages and unsafe working conditions that few locals would ever tolerate. Labour rights violations such as breaches of minimum wage legislation, forced over-time, denial of paid sick leave, maternity leave and holidays, and substandard occupational safety and health, remain widespread.
Despite an urgent need to systematically address these issues, there continues to be a striking lack of political will, both at the national and regional levels, to protect the rights of migrants. Migration policies are in contrast increasingly driven by the demands of the corporate sector and the need to securitise migration flows to safeguard national security. There is an increased trend for GMS countries to establish Special Economic Zones (SEZs), some of which are designated to keep migrants along the borders and hence leading to isolation of migrants from mainstream society. We are concerned that forcing migrants to live in social exclusion is contrary to the principle of living together and is only likely to exacerbate existing problems.
With the ASEAN Economic Community due to be established by the end of 2015, this year has seen high level regional discussions on trade, investment and the freer movement of skilled labour. In spite of this unique opportunity, the regional body has shown an apparent lack of political will or capacity to realise protection mechanisms for all migrant workers. The process began by the signing of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in 2007, appears to have stalled indefinitely and no framework instrument to implement the Declaration has been put in place. Moreover in a year that has seen large numbers of people in the region risking their lives out of desperation, ASEAN has failed to respond to this migration crisis, in accordance with its vision of creating a “sharing and caring” community.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the ICRMW, we urge all national governments to sign and ratify this important convention. We also urge ASEAN to develop migration policies founded on the principle of protecting the rights found within this instrument. Migration policies based on economic utility at the expense of workers’ rights are neither sustainable nor compatible with international standards. Law and policies that respond to abusive practices found in the GMS are in urgent need and must take into an account the continuum of exploitation experienced.
PDF [487 KB]
The MMN statement was covered by the following news:
Invitation: Migrants Day Fair 2015 and Report Launch, 20 December 2015, 10 AM – 3 PM, Yangoon, Myanmar
You are cordially invited to join the Migrants Day Fair to be organised by the Migrants Network of CSOs and Labour Organisations with the support of the ILO Yangon, United ACT, and Mekong Migration Network.
As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, we remember that we, the human race, are all migrants. Our history is a history of migration. We also recognize that few of us today can find work close to our homes, most of us have to migrate for our livelihood. Whether it is to the city or to the seas or to a foreign country, most of us will have been migrants at some time in our lives. And yet, countries are still reluctant to sign up to the Convention to protect us all. We hope that we will get good news at our celebration!
Please see below further details of the event:
DATE: 20 December 2015
TIME: 10AM – 3PM
VENUE – FREE FUNERAL SERVICE SOCIETY (FFSS), U KYAW THU NO.(13-A), BOHMU BA HTOO STREET, 48TH QUARTER,NORTH DAGON TOWNSHIP, YANGON, MYANMAR
PROGRAM OF EVENTS: 10am – 3pm Activities, games, art events, food, prizes!
10.15am- Launch of the Internal Migration Study
11.00 am- United ACT group performance
01.00 pm- Music Please come and join to find out more about migrants and migration.
Please also find attached the invitation letter in English and Burmese, and feel free to extend the invitation to your contacts within your network who might be interested in joining!
Press Release, the 27th of May, 2015 – Mekong Migration Network launches a report on migrant women and health in the GMS in advance of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health
Press Release, the 27th of May, 2015 – Mekong Migration Network launches a report on migrant women and health in the GMS in advance of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health
May 28 is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Since 1987, this day has been commemorated by women’s and health groups around the world. It is an occasion to celebrate the gains for women’s health and remind our governments of women’s health rights.
In commemorating this special day, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is launching a new report, Self-Care & Health Care: How Migrant Women in the Greater Mekong Subregion Take Care of their Health today.
MMN is a subregional network of civil society organisations and research institutes in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). With the support of the United Nations Development Programme, MMN project partners in all countries of the GMS interviewed 114 migrant women to find out how women take care of their own health, what prevention measures and self-treatment measures they take, and how they make decisions about when to self-treat, to seek advice from a pharmacy, or to see a doctor. This study looked at factors that affect their ability to look after their health – whether through self-care or formal health care.
Main findings include that in the GMS migrant women’s continuum of care typically starts with prevention, then self-treatment using home or traditional remedies, then moves to pharmacy advice and medication, and finally, when accessible, to doctors at health care facilities. While formal health care facilities are a last resort for most migrant women, most reports on health in the GMS focus on access to that limited, last resort option. The MMN study hence aimed at looking both at migrant women’s access to health care and also details of what happens before that.
“I diagnose myself if it is not serious and sometimes get medication from the pharmacy. If I feel worse I will talk to the NGO clinic.” Vietnamese migrant in her 20s working as a rubbish collector in Cambodia
It also found out that migrant women’s vulnerability to ill health increases during the migration process due to various factors such as poor living conditions, unsafe and physically demanding work, poverty wages and precarious legal status.
“When I had accidents while sewing at work, I asked the mechanic to pull out the needle. I put on some red cream and took pain relievers. I had to be careful always. Sometimes I took a rest (for no more than one day); and sometimes I took medicine and continued working.” Burmese returnee in her 30s who worked in a garment factory in Thailand
Sometimes migrant women do not have the luxury of being able to care for their health – because they do not have the resources to do so and/or because the health of the breadwinner in their household, whether themselves or their spouse, is prioritised.
“The health of my husband is the most important thing because he can earn good money only when he is well. I cannot do heavy work like he does.” Vietnamese returnee in her 50s with five children who worked in a fish market in Cambodia
“My health is important as I am the main income provider for my whole family.” Burmese migrant in her 50s working as a salesperson in Thailand
While all undocumented migrant workers face similar hardships, it is particularly challenging for migrant women who bear increased burdens and gender-based discrimination which reduces their ability to negotiate health rights at home, in hospitals, and at work. Furthermore, even upon return home, migrant women face problems re-registering, resulting in limited to no access to public health care.
Across the region there are gaps in health care for migrant women, with the most pronounced gaps particularly being sexual and reproductive health services and care for mental health. Sometimes health care policies and programming for migrants focuses specifically on certain diseases such as HIV and AIDS without making available other health information and health care services. Lack of long term health care policies for migrants combined with poor enforcement of migrants’ labour rights also pose significant barriers to migrant women’s ability to stay healthy and access health care.
“The employer did not allow us to bring babies to the work place. After my baby was three months old [and maternity leave ended], I could not afford a babysitter to look after the baby. So I sent my baby with a broker to my parents in Mon state, Myanmar. You need to pay a broker 5000 Baht for one baby [who they sedate/drug for the duration of the journey].” Burmese returnee in her 20s who worked in a fish canning factory along the Thailand-Malaysia border
Highlights of the key recommendations were that the GMS governments must implement the commitments made at ASEAN and GMS regional levels to improve migrants’ access to health services. These governments should facilitate, in particular, migrant women’s ability to take care of their health and access health care services, by ensuring universal access to general as well as reproductive and sexual health services, by providing interpretation/translation in public services, and by legislating and enforcing a living wage.
Governments of countries of origin should provide Labour attachés with an adequately staffed team, as well as funding and training appropriate to respond to the needs of migrant women. Relevant information about health and health services should be made available for migrant women prior to departure and again upon arrival, through orientation programs/trainings and other channels. Governments of countries of destination should promote and enforce proper compliance of maternity and sick leave policies and provide language-appropriate information on policies, services, and health rights through different channels targeting migrant women.
A full report is available online at http://www.mekongmigration.org/Self-Care%20and%20Health%20Care_final.pdf in English in PDF format. It is also available in print in English.
The executive summary of the report is available as a separate pdf at http://www.mekongmigration.org/Executive%20Summary-%20Self-Care%20and%20Health%20Care-Final.pdf in English and six Mekong languages. It is also available in print in all seven languages.
For further information please contact:
Regional – Ms. Reiko Harima (English and Japanese) firstname.lastname@example.org (Phone: +852 93692244-Hong Kong)
Myanmar – Ms. Hkun Sa Mun Htoi (Burmese and English) email@example.com (Phone: +95 9450068153-Myanmar)
Cambodia – Mr. Sokchar Mom (Khmer and English) firstname.lastname@example.org (Phone: +855 12943767-Cambodia)
China – Ms. Chen Xue (Chinese and English) email@example.com (Phone: +86 87164618554-China)
Lao PDR – Ms. Oulavanh Sinsamphanh (Lao and English) firstname.lastname@example.org (Phone: +856 2054258679-Laos)
Thailand – Ms. Kanchana Di-ut (Thai and English) email@example.com (Phone: +66 858651979-Thailand)
Vietnam – Dr. Huynh Thi Ngoc Tuyet (Vietnamese and English) firstname.lastname@example.org (Phone: +84 908 160 458-Vietnam)
Download the Press Release in English, Shan and six Mekong languages in PDF:
MMN Workshop: “Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in the ASEAN?”, 23 April 2015
MMN at the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21-24 April 2015*
MMN Workshop: “Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in the ASEAN?”
Co-organised by: Legal Support for Children and Women, MAP Foundation and Workers Hub for Change
At present “integration” in the ASEAN region refers purely to regional economic integration and all but ignores the need for social integration. However, in reality it is not only money and goods that move, but people also. Within ASEAN, migrants face various barriers and challenges in seeking to fully integrate and not merely survive in the country of destination. Millions of migrants live “side-by-side” with local communities but not “together”, resulting in loss of a sense of belonging, and inability to play a visible role as a member of the community.
It was in this context that the above-named workshop was organised. The workshop commenced with an interactive activity in which participants assessed different policies and practices in their respective countries. The issues they discussed through this activity included: migrant children’s access to education, migrants’ access to public health care, coverage of migrants under labour protection, and coverage of migrants under the social security.
The workshop then proceeded to a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator. The first panelist, Ms. Pranom Somwong, remarked on the ways in which migrants in the region are treated merely as temporary labourers and that there are no policy initiatives to facilitate their integration. She stated that ASEAN needs to develop more comprehensive, longer term policies to achieve social cohesion, otherwise, social exclusion of migrants will create social tension and possibly lead to xenophobia, which could lead to violence and other social repercussions.
The following panelists closely examined current policies that often alienate migrants and exclude them from various social protection and services including labour protection, access to education, access to public health care and access to social security. Such policies contribute to migrants’ social exclusion.
Mr. Charles Hector from the Workers Hub for Change, Malaysia, presented on the situation in Malaysia. He emphaised that the Malaysia demands labour, but not human beings with rights and needs. Moreover, the government wants only labourers who are “disease free”. He noted that most migrant workers are healthy and fit when they arrive in Malaysia as they have to pass a medical examination before migration. Hence, if they are found with diseases while working in Malaysia, it can be assumed that they were infected in Malaysia. So why do we deport them? Migrant women who become pregnant are also deported, hence there is tremendous pressure on migrant women to make life altering decisions when they get pregnant.
The third panelist, Mr Sokchar Mom from the Legal Support for Children and Women, Cambodia, presented on the various issues that make migrants vulnerable to social exclusion at the stages of pre-departure as well as upon return. Issues faced by migrant returnees include discrimination and stigma based on their health status or the work they have done in the destination country, absence of systems to transfer skills they have gained while abroad and lack of mutual recognition of school certificates affecting migrant children. Migrants’ children who stay back home are also vulnerable for social exclusion, according to Mr Sokchar.
The fourth panellist, Mr Brahm Press, from the MAP Foundation, Thailand presented on the challenges faced by migrants in Thailand. He said that many of the policies towards migrants in Thailand are good, but the reality is often different. On the ground, migrants often face barriers in accessing public health care, and find it difficult to seek redress when their labour rights are violated. Many employers do not enrol their migrant employees in the social security. Migrant children often face barriers attending public schools despite policy initiatives allowing them to do so. The barriers include cost of buying uniform, language barrier, and the attitudes of parents of their classmates.
Finally the workshop concluded by jointly developing the following recommendations for ASEAN:
- Make social services portable and accessible throughout ASEAN including universal health care, pension and social security to cover all migrant workers and members of their families throughout the migration continuum
- Provide equal access to education for all children, especially migrant children, in the ASEAN that acknowledges and respects their language and culture
- Facilitate dialogues on social cohesion and integration in ASEAN to change the current perception on migrants from being purely laborers to human beings with full and inalienable rights.