Category Archives: Thai Provincial Decrees

Many Migrants Need More Protection: Karen Rights Group, Irrawaddy

Many Burmese migrant in Thailand need expanded protection because they are not “economic migrants” as much as refugees displaced by war and human rights abuses, said a new report released by a Karen rights group on Tuesday.

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) report titled “Abuse, Poverty and Migration” called for a radical rethink of the division between refugees and so-called “economic migrants.”

The report was based on 150 interviewees conducted mostly in Karen State in eastern Burma and with Burmese working abroad.

The Karen rights group said that many Burmese migrant workers in Thailand lack adequate protection and assistance because of their status as war and human rights refugees.

Naw September Paw, a spokesperson for the report, said, “The vast majority of the migrant workers we interviewed left Burma because of the life-threatening poverty created as a direct result of the military regime’s exploitative abuses.”

“Yet, they are considered as ‘economic migrants’ who leave their country merely in search of better financial opportunities and therefore receive almost no protection assistance,” said September Paw.

More than 2 million Burmese migrant workers live and work in Thailand both legally and illegally, according to labor rights groups.

“It is the time that the distinction between refugees and ‘economic migrants’ is challenged, so that migrant workers can begin to receive the protection and recognition of their rights that they deserve,” said September Paw.

In July 2008, Thai paramilitary troops forced more than 50 Karen refugees—mostly women and children—to leave two refugee camps, Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang in northern Mae Hong Son Province, and return to Karen State, where they had fled Burmese military offensives.

Human Rights Watch criticized the Thai authorities for forcing the Karen refugees into a conflict zone in eastern Burma.

Poe Shen, a field director for the KHRG, said, “They fled for offensive reasons. They have no where to stay as their lands were confiscated by the Burmese army. We hope host countries will extend protection for the migrants.”

Burmese migrant workers usually seek work in neighboring countries including Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Bangladesh.

By SAW YAN NAING Tuesday, June 16, 2009

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