Category Archives: MMN Activities

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 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 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) (Phone: +852 93692244-Hong Kong)

Myanmar – Ms. Hkun Sa Mun Htoi (Burmese and English) (Phone: +95 9450068153-Myanmar)

Cambodia – Mr. Sokchar Mom (Khmer and English) (Phone: +855 12943767-Cambodia)

China – Ms. Chen Xue (Chinese and English) (Phone: +86 87164618554-China)

Lao PDR – Ms. Oulavanh Sinsamphanh (Lao and English) (Phone: +856 2054258679-Laos)

Thailand – Ms. Kanchana Di-ut (Thai and English) (Phone: +66 858651979-Thailand)

Vietnam – Dr. Huynh Thi Ngoc Tuyet (Vietnamese and English) (Phone: +84 908 160 458-Vietnam)


Download the Press Release in English, Shan and six Mekong languages in PDF:

English, Burmese, Chinese, Khmer, Lao, Shan, Thai & Vietnam

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:

  1. 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
  2. Provide equal access to education for all children, especially migrant children, in the ASEAN that acknowledges and respects their language and culture
  3. 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.

*  For more information about the APF, see

Living together-Brahm  Living together-Hector  Living-together-Sokchar-re  2015-04-23 14.58.06-c  2015-04-23 15.39.50-re-2  2015-04-23 15.15.42-re  2015-04-23 15.42.37  2015-04-23 15.55.08

MMN workshop at the APF: What’s your work worth? A Living Wage Now!, 24 April 2015

MMN at the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21-24 April 2015*

“What is your work worth? A Living Wage Now!”

Workshop on Decent Work and a Living Wage, 24 April 2015

2015 is a critical year, as ASEAN governments meet in September to set new sustainable development goals that may drastically impact the lives of workers. With ASEAN eyeing economic ties both inside and outside the region, there is a fear that workers’ right to receive a living wage will be relegated to the sidelines of the economic development agenda.

It was within this context that the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) organised its workshop entitled: “What is your work worth? A Living Wage Now!” The workshop’s co-organisers included United Sisterhood, MAP Foundation, Migrant International and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants.

The objectives of the workshop included: 1) to raise awareness on decent work and a living wage; 2) to share and build upon the strategies and opportunities to advocate for a living wage; and 3) to mobilise civil society in Southeast Asia to campaign for a universal living wage.

Attended by 25 participants, the workshop commenced with a participatory activity facilitated by the MMN team. Participants assessed and discussed minimum wage trends and the cost of living in the respective ASEAN countries.

The activity was followed by a presentation by Ms. Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator, to highlight how the issue of wages are framed by different stakeholders. While a living wage is crucial for a worker and her/his dependent family members to live a decent life, the minimum wage in ASEAN countries is set only to allow a worker to be able to support her/himself, not taking into account the needs of the members of her/his family. As ASEAN countries compete to offer “low cost labour” to attract foreign direct investment, national minimum wages are currently far from living wages in the respective countries. Furthermore, many workers fall outside current labour protection legislation as they are employed in excluded less formal sectors. This is particularly the case for migrant workers, who are typically paid far below the minimum wage. While a living wage would be most welcome for workers struggling to support their families, the business sector regards any such developments as a “risk” or “disadvantage”. Given this reality, what can we do to achieve a living wage for all workers? The challenge is great.

Moderated by Ms. Pranom Somwong from the Workers Hub for Change, several panelists shared the challenges and strategies in demanding the living wage. Ms. Rina Anastacio from the Migrant International shared the challenges in calling for a living wage in the case of the Philippines. Ms. Sonia Bullong from the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants shared the challenges faced by migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. Mr Brahm Press from the MAP Foundation shared challenges faced by migrant workers in Thailand, noting that most migrant workers do not even receive the minimum wage, let alone a living wage, and hence the current efforts focus on ensuring all the migrant workers receive at least the minimum wage. Representatives from the United Sisterhood, shared the experiences of garment workers in Cambodia. They highlighted the fact that even when the minimum wage is increased, the cost of living in the country increases much more rapidly, which in turn negatively hinders workers’ capacity to survive. They called for regulation of prices in the country in addition to increased wages.

Finally, the workshop called on ASEAN to:

Engage with workers’ representatives and trade unions to review current minimum wage rates and establish and enforce living wages that reflect the real cost of living, so that workers and their dependent family members can live a dignified life.

The session closed with a call for justice for the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy, which took place exactly two years to the day of the workshop.

*  For more information about the APF see

Living wage-Reiko  2015-04-24 14.33.15-1  living wage-Us  2015-04-24 15.33.22-re copy  IMAG4278_1  2015-04-24 16.11.33-re  2015-04-24 16.08.26-1-re copy


Invitation to the MMN workshop at the APF: What’s your work worth? Living Wage Now!, 24 April 2015

MMN is also co-organising with the APWLD the workshop on living wage. Please find below more details.

Workshop title: What’s your work worth? Living Wage Now!
Time: 1:30-3:30 pm, 24 April 2015
Venue: Suite 3, MCA 13th Floor, Wisma MCA, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur

MMN will run an interactive activity to see how the current wages fare cost of living in respective countries, and also present on the political economy of wages. Various organisations will also share their current efforts in promoting living wage.

Please join us!

Invitation to the workshop on Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in ASEAN?, 2-4pm, 23 April 2015

Dear Friends,

We are happy to inform you that Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is organising a thematic workshop entitled Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in ASEAN? during the upcoming ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) in Kuala Lumpur. Please join us if you are attending the APF!

Date and Time: 23 April, 2-4pm

Venue: Suite 5 (13th floor), Wisma MCA, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur (ACSC/APF 2015 venue)

Co-organisers: MAP Foundation (Thailand), Legal Support for Children and Women (Cambodia), Workers Hub for Change (Malaysia)

The workshop will look at the concept of integration and social cohesion under the overarching theme of “Living Together”. MMN and its partners working with migrants have observed that most talk of integration in the ASEAN 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. However, there is limited evidence of the comprehensive and long-term vision from ASEAN states that is necessary to achieve social cohesion in the region. Most migration policies in the region consider migrants as temporary and contribute to a sense of social exclusion. These policies separate migrant communities from host communities and are in danger of creating tensions and misunderstandings. Moreover, migrants also face challenges in their countries of origin that are likely to increase their vulnerability to social exclusion both at the pre-migration stage and upon return.

The issue of social cohesion tend to be sidelined in the migration discourse, partly because there is less sense of urgency and partly because the theme can be less concrete. Given the absence of regular discussion on the theme, our workshop aims to provide a venue for activists to discuss what needs to be changed in order for migrant and local members of society to “live together”. It provides a venue to explore a long term vision on migration rather than focus on the specific issues.  While specific issues that lead to migrants’ social exclusion such as lack of access to social services, discrimination, and migrant children’s lack of access to schools will be covered in the discussion, the workshop aims to link these back to the overarching problem of absence of vision in the region on integration and social cohesion.

Participatory methods will be employed to facilitate active sharing by participants. Participants will collectively identify the enablers and barriers that facilitate or prevent migrants’ social integration, and identify what need to be changed in order for migrants to live as a member of the community.


All are welcome!



14:00-14:05 Introduction

14:05-14:30 Mapping on “Integration or social exclusion in the ASEAN?” (participatory exercise), co-facilitated by Ms Pranom Somwong, Workers Hub for Change and Ms Omsin Boonlert, MMN

14:30-15:10 Panel presentation

Moderator: Ms Reiko Harima, MMN


Ms Pranom Somwong, Workers Hub for Change

Mr Brahm Press, MAP Foundation

Mr Sokchar Mom, Legal Support for Children and Women

15:10-15:30: Open discussion

15:30-16:00 Development of recommendations (co-moderators: Reiko Harima, Brahm Press, Sokchar Mom)

For inquiries, please contact Ms Omsin Boonlert (“Plaii”), MMN Research and Advocacy Officer, at or Ms Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator, at

Mekong Migration Network:

Living Together-flyer-A4

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