Category Archives: Myanmar

MMN Releases Proceedings of the Workshop on Labour Migration from Mekong Countries to Japan

On July 8, 2019, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) held a multi-stakeholder workshop on Labour Migration from Mekong Countries to Japan in Tokyo, Japan. The workshop was organised in anticipation of increased labour migration from Mekong countries, as Japan seeks to plug gaps in its rapidly shrinking labour force. Under the current Technical Internship Training Programme (TITP), a significant proportion of migrant workers in Japan originate from Vietnam (72,637), Myanmar (3,692), and Cambodia (3,328).1 These relatively modest numbers are expected to increase rapidly following the Japanese government’s announcement that it intends to welcome an additional 345,000 migrant workers within five years. To facilitate this policy change, Japan amended its strict immigration laws and added a new “Specified Skilled Worker” (SSW) visa category. Japan also signed bilateral Memoranda of Cooperation (MoC) with Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar to facilitate the implementation of the new scheme.

Given these developments, MMN gathered more than 35 stakeholders to address potential challenges and opportunities from the perspectives of Japan as well as countries of origin in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Participants included representatives from the Embassy of Vietnam in Japan, the Vietnam Association of Manpower Supply (VAMAS), the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA), the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF), inter-governmental organisations, recruitment agencies, and civil society organisations (CSOs) in Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Japan, as well as academic experts on labour migration.

The two plenary sessions at the workshop touched on a number of topics from the perspectives of Japan and countries of origin, including: legal frameworks and recruitment practices in different countries of origin; labour rights violations in Japan; migrants’ experiences in pre-departure and post-arrival training; restrictive conditions under the TITP visa status; migrants’ reproductive rights; the work of CSOs and associations of recruitment agencies in countries of origin in supporting migrant workers throughout the migration cycle; the feasibility of adopting the “Zero Recruitment Fees” model for migration to Japan; and the continued presence of illegal intermediaries involved in the migration process.

Click here for the full proceedings.

Protecting Asean’s most vulnerable

The risks are high for migrants who leave home in search of a better future for their families, but nothing can stem the tide of the exodus.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports that the number of migrant workers in Thailand rose to 4.9 million in 2018, which includes around 3.9 million from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Among these are an estimated 300,000-400,000 migrant children.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). All Asean members have ratified the international treaty, which upholds children’s rights to survival, protection, development, and social participation.

Leaders at this weekend’s 35th Asean Summit will adopt the Asean Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration, according to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

As Bangkok gears up for the historic forum, experts are urging Thailand, as current chair of Asean, to curb child migration amid concerns over human trafficking.


Premjai Vungsiriphisal, a senior researcher at Chulalongkorn University’s Asian Research Centre for Migration, attributes the influx of migrant children from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos to socio-economic deprivation.

“For example, the Rong Kluea border market in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district sees a large number of children doing jobs to support their families. From the Western perspective, child labour is unacceptable. However, the children must work to escape poverty. If authorities launch a new crackdown, what are these children going to do? There should be alternatives to law enforcement, such as raising awareness and providing development opportunities for kids,” she told the Bangkok Post.

Ms Premjai said migrant children in Thailand and other countries find doors through which they can escape poverty.

“Myanmar and Cambodia are developing rapidly, which creates a lot of [job] opportunities in urban areas. However, workers have to pay higher living expenses and compete with other job-seekers in cities. It is very difficult for children to find their feet.

“In Thailand, they earn higher incomes and have more opportunities, such as free education. Do you know that a lot of migrant children cross the border to go to our schools each day? If they have relatives here, they can stay with them overnight,” she said.

However, Ms Premjai warned that migrant children are at risk of being exploited.

“They can be forced into prostitution. Traffickers often lure these innocent girls into believing they will work in restaurants. In these cases, we can take legal action because they become victims of human trafficking.

“However, the problem is that some are willing to become sex workers. I interviewed 15-year-old migrant girls rescued from karaoke brothels a few years ago. When I questioned them, they said they knew what they had to do before starting the job. What should we do if it is their choice [to enter the sex trade]?” she asked.

Ms Premjai wants Thailand and other Asean countries to improve border controls in an effort to end human trafficking. “Border checkpoints can screen and repatriate migrant children. However, there are other secret channels [for human trafficking]. If Asean joined hands to develop child welfare among its members, it would help reduce the number of illegal migrants in the region,” she added.

Meanwhile, Wanchai Roujanavong, chair of the Asean Commission on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, said verification of migrants remains a challenge.

“It is very difficult to screen them because they don’t have identity cards. They can lie about their ages to get jobs. In some cases, they bribe local authorities to forge birth certificates for passport application,” he said, citing the arrests of underaged migrant workers at massage parlours.

Mr Wanchai also proposed that Asean members uphold a single standard for detention of illegal migrants and their children. “Thailand has already changed its practice. Migrant children are now kept in separate shelters while awaiting repatriation,” he said.

Thientong Prasanpanich, director of Children and Youth System Development at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, said Thailand is beefing up cross-border collaboration with neighbouring countries.

“Although Asean members adopted the CRC, they implement policies and laws on child migration differently. Hence, it is difficult for home and host countries to work together. However, we are making progress this year. For instance, Myanmar is showing strong commitment to boosting coordination with us,” she said.


Ms Thientong admitted that Thailand is facing difficulty ensuring that all migrant children can access public services, especially education and health care.

“Thailand’s education-for-all policy welcomes migrant children. However, illegal migrant parents fear that if they enrol their children in school, they will be prosecuted for sneaking into the country. Therefore, many kids remain out of school,” she said.

Last year, Thailand’s IOM Mission estimated that more than 164,000 migrant children are enrolled in school, while around 200,000 get no formal education.

“Thais are entitled to the 30-baht health scheme because they pay tax. Migrant workers are required to purchase their own healthcare package, which covers their children,” she said.

When asked about other categories of children on the move, Ms Thientong said Thailand still has a reservation to Article 22 of the CRC relating to rights of child refugees and asylum seekers. “We cannot remove the reservation because we don’t have a law on the status of refugees.”

However, Thailand’s treatment of migrant children has improved since it adopted the CRC in 1992, she added.”The immigration law regards them as innocent even though their parents migrate to Thailand illegally…. The child protection act ensures protection for Thai and non-Thai children while the civil registration act offers registration of birth to anyone born in Thailand.”

Ms Thientong reaffirmed the government’s commitment to promoting all children’s rights to public services. “Migrant workers are a driving force of the bloc’s economy. It is impossible to ignore their children’s living conditions. Most importantly, we see them as citizens of Asean,” she said.

Written by Thana Boonlert
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 2 November 2019

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar join hands in protecting migrant workers

Phnom Penh (VNA) – Officials from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar gathered at a two-day interior ministerial-level meeting in Seam Reap province, discussing measures to protect migrant workers from each nation.

Cambodian Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on October 31 after the meeting concluded that the three countries would raise the issue with Thailand, which receives the most migrant workers in the region.

The three countries are neighbours who have similar cultures and share borders with Thailand, he said, adding their residents have moved to Thailand for working, and some of them have faced difficulties throughout their journey, from the day they leave for work until they return.

He stressed citizens from each country have the right to find a job overseas, and each government has an obligation to protect them through cooperation with the destination nations.

To this end, it was necessary for the three countries to pool initiatives before consulting Thailand about the issue.

Meanwhile, Phengsavanh Thipphavongxay, head of the Secretariat of the National Committee on Anti-Trafficking in Persons under the Lao Ministry of Public Security, said the Lao Government is facing the issue of cross-border migration, especially there is a sharp increase in the number of Lao workers in Thailand.

Kristin Parco, head of mission at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Cambodia, said the trilateral meeting was vital for the three countries to address various issues, comprising human trafficking and challenges in the fishing industry.

The IOM will continue facilitating negotiations for competent sides on the issue, she added.

Source: VNA
Published on 1 November 2019

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar tackle migrant worker safety

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng met his Lao and Myanmar counterparts on Wednesday to discuss ways to strengthen the protection of migrant workers from each country.

Speaking during a two-day technical-level meeting in Siem Reap province, Sar Kheng said after this second round of discussions to exchange ideas and experiences, that the three countries will raise the issue with Thailand, which receives the most migrant workers in the region.

“The three countries [Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar] are neighbours who have similar cultures and share borders with Thailand.

“A large number of our citizens have gone to work there, legally and illegally. Some of them have faced problems throughout their journey, from the day they leave for work until they return,” he said.

Sar Kheng said citizens from each country have the right to find a job overseas, and each government has an obligation to protect them through cooperation with migrant worker-receiving countries.

However, he said that as migrant worker-sending countries, the three governments could not exert pressure on Thailand and would instead work together to reach a consensus on an effective mechanism to protect workers.

“Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are joining hands to pool ideas before consulting Thailand. We want to help it resolve numerous issues that are the subject of criticism by the international community, such as those involving workers in the fishing industry.

“Please don’t think that our countries are joining hands to take advantage of Thailand or cause any trouble for it.

“Although the three countries have found common ground over the issue during this meeting, we still cannot put it up for discussion directly with Thailand.

“After reaching a consensus at this meeting, we will hold a technical-level discussion with Thailand first, and after an agreement has been reached, [leaders of] the four sides can officially meet,” he said.

Phengsavanh Thipphavongxay, head of the Secretariat of the National Committee on Anti-Trafficking in Persons under Laos’ Ministry of Public Security, said his government had also been facing the issue of cross-border migration.

He particularly noted the exploitation of Lao workers in Thailand.

“This trilateral discussion is important for the governments of the three countries that have sent a lot of migrant workers. This provides us with an opportunity to join hands to resolve the challenges we face and to seek a proper solution,” he said.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration adopted in Morocco in December last year stipulates that member countries have to promote the implementation of migrant worker protection against all forms of trafficking and exploitation at all steps of migration.

In November 2017, Asean member states also signed a unanimous agreement and approved the Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights of Migrant Workers to boost the effectiveness of migration job governance.

Kristin Parco, the head of mission at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Cambodia, said the trilateral meeting was vital for the three migrant-worker-sending countries to address numerous issues.

These include human and sex trafficking and challenges faced by workers in the fishing industry, among others.

She said IOM will continue its efforts to facilitate dialogue among the relevant parties.

“We should carry out more operations in order to have an important role in migration tasks through governing law and labour standards.

“This is because migration mostly exists in the region which requires cooperation in a global and regional manner in order to reach implementation in 2030.”

Written by Long Kammarita
Source: Phnom Penh Post
Published on 30 October 2019

Trump hits Thai seafood industry over worker rights

Donald Trump will suspend trade preferences for Thailand’s seafood industry after it failed to take steps to improve worker rights, dealing a blow to the multibillion-dollar sector.

Thailand is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter but its supplier status has been badly tainted in recent years by reports of slave labour and trafficking among the mainly migrant workforce.

All Thai seafood products will lose their eligibility for the trade preferences due to “longstanding worker rights issues in the seafood and shipping industries,” Bloomberg News reported Saturday, quoting the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The suspension of the trade preferences – which Bloomberg said are worth $1.3bn – will go into effect on April 25, 2020, according to a letter sent Friday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I have determined that Thailand is not taking steps to afford workers in Thailand internationally recognized worker rights … it is appropriate to suspend the duty-free treatment,” Trump said in the letter.

Under the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, eligible countries are able to import certain goods into the US duty-free.

Other items losing duty-free preferences include fruits and vegetables, garment products and electrical appliances.

According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, Made-In-Thailand exports to the US totalled $31.9bn in 2018, with electrical machinery making up the majority of goods coming in.


The US suspension comes despite the European Union recently striking Thailand from its warning list in January, seeing efforts made by the government to tackle illegal fishing.

Thailand had been on the list since 2015 after allegations of rampant labour rights abuses in its fishing fleets.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division applauded the move on Saturday, calling Thailand’s enforcement of worker protections “pathetic”.

“For years, Thailand has failed to protect both Thai and migrant workers from neighbouring countries from unscrupulous employers who fire anyone that stands up to demand their rights,” Robertson said. “Reform is long overdue.”

Thailand’s government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat on Saturday declined to comment on the suspension.

Source: Al Jazeera

Published on 27 October 2019


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