Category Archives: Thailand

Myanmar workers to be fined if they re-enter Thailand after re-entry visa validity

Myanmar migrant workers returning home for Thingyan holidays will be fined if they fail to re-enter Thailand during the period when their re-entry visa is valid, according to Myanmar Labour Attaché’s Office in Thailand.

Thai authorities have allowed Myanmar workers to return to their home country by issuing re-entry visas valid from April 5 to April 30.

The migrant workers have to re-enter Thailand during the period of the visa validation. Those who re-enter Thailand late during the period from May 1 to 31 will be fined 2,000 baht (around K100,000). For re-entering Thailand later than May 31 will have to apply under MoU (memorandum of understanding) system.

A labour attaché has been assigned to Ayutthaya so that Myanmar workers can seek help for their re-entry.

According to the Thai Ministry of Labour, 196,116 foreign workers returned home duirng the festival period. There were 105,849 Myanmar workers, 45,927 Laotian workers and 44,340 Camobidan workers.

In the post-felstival period also, 34,042 Myanmar workers returned home.

 Written by Lwin Myo Thu

Source: Eleven Myanmar

Published on 20 April 2019


Thousands line up to go home for Songkran

Thousands of Myanmar migrant workers crowded a border checkpoint in Tak’s Mae Sot district on Thursday morning as they returned home for the Songkran holidays.

The workers – most of whom travelled from Bangkok and other provinces where they work and stay – stood patiently in a queue longer than 300 metres to go through the immigration procedure.

Songkran Festival, from April 11-17, is also celebrated in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

Many Cambodian workers – many of whom only return home once a year during Songkran – also got on board public transport vans from Pathum Thani’s Rangsit area on Thursday to spend the long holidays with their families and relatives in Cambodia.

Written by Somjit Rungjamrasrassamee
Source: The Nation
Published on 11 April 2019

Border staff allegedly demand bribes

Some Cambodian migrant workers crossing the border from Thailand for the Khmer New Year holiday claimed they were forced to pay 40,000 riel ($10) to get priority in filling out application forms and having their passports stamped at the Poi Pet International Border Checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province.

Roeun Sareth, a 26-year-old construction worker who has worked in Thailand for seven years, said on Wednesday that while he and many other migrant workers were queuing to fill out documents to cross the border, agents in civilian clothes approached them asking if anybody wanted to expedite the process.

“Other migrants and I spent 350 Thai baht [$10] for the VIP service. With the service, immigration officers at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint were quick to process paperwork and stamp our passports.”

“But without it, it would take us two to three days to get through. There were many agents who offered the service,” he said.

Pheng Sopheak, a vendor who recently returned from a shopping trip in Thailand, echoed Sareth’s remarks. She said the agents, who were not clad in police uniforms, stayed at the entrance calling out to migrant workers who wanted to quickly cross the border.

“Some were still asked to stand in line with migrants who didn’t pay for the VIP service and had to wait half a day for border security officers to process paperwork and stamp their passports,” she said.

Through its official Facebook page on March 9, the General Department of Immigration instructed all heads of border checkpoints to carry out their duties properly and offer free services to migrants crossing the border.

“Officers at all border checkpoints must provide convenience for Cambodians and foreigners who cross the border, especially Cambodian migrant workers who return from Thailand for the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday,” said the statement.

Filed a complaint

Hean Kimsoeun, a sociopolitical analyst, on Wednesday, filed a complaint to the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) seeking an investigation into allegations of bribes for quick service at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint.

“I have obtained evidence including a video clip and some documents to prove that officers at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint solicited money from Cambodian migrant workers who returned home for Khmer New Year,” he said.

“Each person paid about 350 baht, or around 40,000 riel, for quick process of paperwork and stamping of passports. I’ve already gathered enough information,” he said.

Khem Chetra, the immigration police bureau chief at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

When The Post reached Keo Vanthorn, deputy director of the General Department of Immigration, for comment on Wednesday, a person who answered his phone said he was busy in a meeting.

ACU president Om Yentieng also could not be reached for comment.

An ACU officer who asked not to be identified only said that Kimsoeun’s complaint was “confidential”.

Sam Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, called on the General Department of Immigration to take more effective measures against solicitation at border checkpoints.

“When I previously organised a workshop on people’s rights, I asked attendees if they were asked to pay [for quick processing of paperwork]. All of them unanimously said yes. Some people were asked to pay 300 baht while others were asked to pay only 100 baht,” he said.

Written by Khorn Savi
Source: Phnom Penh Post
Published on 11 April 2019

Border Officials Shake Down Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

Thousands of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have flocked to the border along Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces to return home for the Khmer New Year holiday. But many of the migrants say that before being allowed to return to Cambodia, they had to bribe both Thai and Cambodian border police.

The three-day holiday, running from Apr. 14-16, is the most important holiday in the country, and it is customary for Cambodians to return to their hometowns.

“We workers are not educated and we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to return. We didn’t want any problems, so we just paid the officials,” said migrant worker Heng Chanhieng, in an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service Tuesday.

He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments.

Another migrant, Lon Samnang, said he believes the Thai and Cambodian officers are in league with each other, colluding to extort the workers during the holiday season. He said that the officials demanded they put away their cellphones while collecting the money because they were afraid their pictures would be taken.

“If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]” he said.

The migrant said he had to wait five hours before the police would even allow them to leave the border checkpoints.

Neth Phirum, meanwhile said police collected $10 from him during his return trip.

“We got in line and handed them the money,” he said, adding, “Nobody knows where that money went [or what it is for].”

Sok Kun, a Kamrieng immigration police officer denied that either the Thai or Cambodian police were taking bribes. He said the money was given to them voluntarily after the officials helped the migrants cross the border in an organized, timely manner.

“The money was their way of saying thanks,” he said.

The same situation was experienced by workers at the Poipet checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s Ou Chrov district.

Keo Soveacha said Wednesday that after he offered to pay a bribe, the Cambodian and Thai police split the proceeds.

“I wanted to speed up the process, so I said ‘I have $13,’” he said.

Dy Thehoya, a program officer for the Phnom Penh-based Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said he wants the government to stop the yearly extortion of the thousands of migrants returning home.

“We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money,” he said.

Heang Kimsoeun, a social worker, filed a complaint Thursday to Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, asking them to investigate corruption along the border. The complaint said workers are made to pay $10-$11 to get through border checkpoints. He said that those responsible for the corruption should be brought to justice.

“What are [the police] doing with that money? This is illegal,” he said.

RFA attempted to contact Thai officials for comment. The deputy immigration chief declined to answer any questions, whereas the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received questions but did not reply.

Source: Radio Free Asia
Published on 11 April 2019

Myanmar migrant women find solace from domestic abuse

Trapped in a life of fear and violence, Myanmar migrant women on the Thai border find refuge at a support group organised by a fledgling non-profit organisation.

AS THE arguments between Ma Khin Myo and her husband got worse, so did the beatings, and she didn’t know how to make them stop.

Khin Myo, 28, a migrant worker in Thailand, could have gone to the police, but worried that if she did, her family might be deported. She could have sought help at her mosque, but what if the imam wanted her and her husband to divorce? She wanted to open up to her friends, but what if they called her an ungrateful wife?

“I was afraid. I was afraid I would be separated from my two kids,” she said, sitting with her two-year-old daughter at a teashop in Mae Sot, just across the border from Myawaddy in Kayin State.

The teashop, a simple but clean open-air cafe, is where Khin Myo and other women gather each Friday for a meeting of a support group organised by the Freedom Restoration Project, a fledgling non-profit organisation that supports migrant women who are victims of domestic abuse.

Each of the women in the group came to Thailand in search of a better life and instead found herself living in difficult conditions and trapped in a cycle of fear and suffering. Few of them carry immigration papers, and even fewer speak Thai. Some, like Khin Myo, have managed to end, or at least temper, the attacks from their husbands or partners. Others still live under the constant threat of verbal, physical or sexual violence, with no one to turn to but the other survivors.

“When you do group therapy, it’s powerful not because of the counsellor, but because of the people in the group who have been through the same thing,” said Ms Watcharapon “Sia” Kukaewkasem, founder and director of FRP. “They share their stories, they share their fears, and they make other women in the groups think, ‘Wow, I’m not alone here, I’m not the only one.’”

FRP is currently a two-woman operation staffed by Sia, who holds a master’s degree in clinical social work from Azusa Pacific University in California, and her assistant and translator, a Karen woman named Hser Htee Paw. Together, they organise the support group, hold parenting workshops for migrant mothers and visit migrant schools to teach teenaged girls how to identify and defend themselves against sexual abuse.

Although FRP launched last year, Sia’s vision has been more than a decade in the making. In 2007 she became a volunteer social worker in Mae Sot, home to hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Myanmar, who live in squatter shantytowns or factory dormitories and plant, dig, clean or stitch for a few dollars a day. Over the years, Sia came to expect the fresh bruises and black eyes on the women she counselled.

One woman, whom Sia met as a teenager and watched grow up and marry, would flee to Sia’s house whenever her husband flew into a rage. The husband of another woman would force their oldest children to beg on the street and once branded their daughter’s leg with a hot knife when she didn’t bring home enough cash. The same woman suffered a miscarriage after a particularly savage beating.

“[That mother and four kids] all came to the organisation I was working with, and when she was with me for a few weeks she told all these stories,” Sia recalled. “She said, ‘I’m not going back anymore. He’s so violent to me and my kids.”

At the time Sia was working for a Mae Sot-based NGO, Compasio, which helped to provide the woman with a new apartment. “After a few weeks, she went back to her husband,” she said.

Escaping an abusive situation can be more difficult than it might first seem, said Ma Lai Win Phyu, a gender-based violence analyst with the United Nations Population Fund. The fetters that bind women to what is known as “intimate partner violence” (IPV) – be it physical, sexual or emotional – can extend beyond mere economic dependence.

“They don’t have a legal status and they don’t have legal documents. This can be a big challenge,” Lai Win Phyu said. “They have double discrimination: They will be discriminated against because of their legal status and because of their gender.”

Sometimes, Sia’s clients seek help from the police but they are usually reluctant to become involved in what they consider to be a domestic dispute and send the woman home.

“This will happen to Thai women too,” Sia said. “Police will say, ‘Oh, today maybe you’ll fight, but tomorrow you’ll make up.’ They think [only] about family unification.”

But the greatest threat can come from within.

“Survivors do not exercise help-seeking behaviour because they are afraid of being blamed by the community,” said Lai Win Phyu.

In Myanmar migrant communities, violence can be common, even expected, between husband and wife, but it is not considered to be a reason for a woman to leave, or even threaten to leave, her partner. Doing so can invite scorn from the community.

“They might tell themselves, ‘This is my fault because I did not cook well. This is my fault because I did not take care of the children.’ They believe they are the ones who should be blamed,” said Lai Win Phyu.

Ma Htay Htay Oo, 25, from Mawlamyine, does not blame herself for her husband’s violent outbursts, but neither does she think he is entirely at fault.

Life is hard, she explained from the front lawn of the migrant school where she attends the FRP’s weekly parenting workshops. On the horizon, looming like a grubby white hill, is the city dump, where Htay Htay Oo and her husband support their three-year-old daughter by scavenging for recyclables.

Money is always scarce and the city could evict them at any moment, said Htay Htay Oo. She understands why her husband gets drunk sometimes and hits her, even if she hates it.

“Sometimes I feel like this is just normal. But sometimes, when I’m alone and sad, I feel like my husband abuses me, and it isn’t good,” she said.

Although not all of the mothers who attend the parenting classes go to the support group, Sia suspects that most of them live, like Htay Htay Oo, with the ever-present threat of abuse. One of the objectives of the FRP’s parenting classes is to de-normalise the concept of domestic violence and re-define it as negative and abhorrent.

For Htay Htay Oo, at least, the classes seem to be working. Her husband is open to the new parenting techniques and is also taking steps to curb his violent outbursts, even if he does not always succeed.

Sia is less forgiving of Htay Htay Oo’s husband. She says Htay Htay Oo’s willingness to put the blame for her husband’s violence on poverty, stress and alcoholism is common among women who are abused by their partners. Sia hates the blame-shifting.

“Not everyone who drinks abuses their wives, and not everyone who doesn’t drink doesn’t abuse their wives. Being poor is not the reason there is violence at home,” she said sharply after talking with Htay Htay Oo. “Maybe that will create more stress, but that’s not the main thing. It’s more about control of another person.”

Lai Win Phyu agrees. “The root cause is gender inequality. Power imbalance,” she said. “Power is not only strength. You can talk about it on an economic level, a societal decision-making level or a technology and communication level.”

For Khin Myo, improving her situation began with discovering her own power. With the encouragement of other women in her support group, she finally stood up to her husband, threatening to go to their local Muslim leader or leave him if the violence did not end.

The ultimatum worked. He promised to change and he hasn’t lifted his hand against her for months.

Others are not so fortunate and often face the cruel choice of abandoning their homes and families or continuing to live with abuse.

But those who meet for tea each Friday, at least for now, are not alone.

Written by Jared Downing
Source: Frontier Myanmar
Published on 10 April 2019

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