Category Archives: Other Migration Issues in Mekong

Malaysian Police arrest Myanmar workers after passport checks

The Myanmar workers in Malaysia are facing increased arrests after having their passports checked in the wake of tightened security due to a string of murder cases.

Hsan Win, chairperson of the Kapong Funeral Service Society, said the arrests coincided with the demand of Myanmar Embassy requesting the Malaysian Labour Ministry to take action against the killings of Myanmar citizens.

Myanmar workers are now facing two dilemmas as they live in fear for getting killed and for getting arrested, he said.

“The situation is calm. But this is not a good sign. We dare not go downtown because we fear for the safety of our lives. If we try to go out, Malaysian police would check our passports and arrest us. They are also making a lot of arrests along the Thai-Malaysian border,” he said.

A large number of Myanmar workers had their passports kept by their employers, hence they found it difficult to go out and avoid arrest because they could not pass passport checks.

On July 8, Myanmar national AungKhin, aka Ko Tony, was found stabbed to death outside his house in Penang. Another man MyoPaing, chairperson of Kuala Lumpur Funeral Service for deceased Myanmar citizens, was killed on the following day.

“The embassy gives no help. We sent a letter to alert about the problem but this did not work out. The killings of Myanmar citizens in Malaysia have not be solved yet,” Hsan Win said.

By: Eleven Myanmar

Thai curfew affects Myanmar migrants’ income, Eleven Myanmar

The curfew in Thailand following last week’s coup has affected business owners and Myanmar migrant workers, according to a border-based rights group.

After the enforcement of curfew, Myanmar migrants in major cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai get paid the minimum daily wage of Bt300 without overtime.

“A worker earns 300 baht per day in Bangkok, a big city where living costs are high. Workers normally have to work between 10 to 12 hours to earn overtime pay. Now, they cannot work overtime so their incomes have been affected,” said Moe Gyo, chairman of Joint Committee for Movement of Myanmar Citizens’ Affairs.

Although the minimum wage has been set at Bt300, Myanmar migrant workers residing in Tak Province only receive around 180 baht per day and they need to work overtime to cover their daily expenses. However, they are facing difficulties now as they cannot work overtime.

Due to political turmoil for the past six months in Thailand, the Thai military imposed martial law on May 21 and staged a coup on May 22.

Nearly 4 million Myanmar migrants are currently working in Thailand.

By Eleven Myanmar

Published on 31 May 2014

May Day migrant protesters demand equal rights, Democratic Voice of Burma

International Workers’ Day celebrations were held all over Rangoon and among migrant communities in Thailand on Thursday.

In Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar, trade union leaders and members, including the director of International Trade Unions Federation (Burma), the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) liaison office and representatives from Myanmar Trade Unions Federation, gathered in a show of unity.

“Today we have representatives from the agriculture sector as well as the industrial and transportation sectors together to unite, regardless of differences in their work sectors,” said Michael from the Agriculture and Farmers Federation of Myanmar.

This is the third year that May Day celebrations could be held publicly in Burma since military rule ended in 2011.

“We have government officials also joining the event, including the deputy labour minister, which is really encouraging for us,” Michael said.

In the Thai border town of Mae Sot, hundreds of Thai and Burmese workers marched through the streets carrying banners and waving flags.

And in Chiang Mai, 200 Thai and Burmese workers marched to demand better labour rights.

Protest leaders read out a ten-point statement, which included equal labour rights for Thai and Burmese workers, and the formation of a committee with both Thai and Burmese speakers, to ensure the minimum wage is paid.

Migrant worker, Hein Htet, said more labour officers are needed at the Burmese Embassy to help resolve migrant issues.

“There is one labour attaché at the Burmese Embassy tasked to resolve issues with the migrant community across Thailand. This is nowhere near sufficient,” Hein Htet said.

“We would like the two governments to have a discussion to appoint more labour officers in provinces with large migrant populations.”

Chiang Mai’s provincial governor, Wichian Puttiwinyu, promised to hand their demands to Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

By Democratic Voice of Burma

Published on 2 May 2014

China’s Young Men Act Out in Factories, Bloomberg Businessweek

Foxconn Technology’s factory complex in Longhua, Shenzhen, has three Olympic-size pools, numerous basketball courts, shops selling Haier minifridges and Xiaomi mobile phones, even a teahouse, the Foxconn Café. The Taiwanese company, which experienced a rash of worker suicides four years ago, has tried to make a community for the 135,000 migrant workers assembling iPads and Hewlett-Packard servers.

Twenty-one-year-old Bai Yaojie, a Foxconn worker, says he isn’t impressed. “Sure, wages are higher here than in my hometown, but I have friends and family back there,” says Bai, a native of Gansu province who earns more than 2,000 yuan ($220) a month. “Work here on the line is extremely boring and life feels meaningless,” he says, adding that he plans to return to his village by yearend, get a driver’s license, and start driving his own truck.

As China’s first generation of migrant workers reaches retirement age, their children are taking over factory jobs. In a marked shift from an earlier era when women dominated many production lines, more of these workers are young men. Many are creating new challenges on the factory floor, including increased impatience with rote work and higher turnover rates.

“When the older generation came to the coastal cities, their purpose was relatively simple: making money,” says Louis Woo, special assistant to the chief executive officer of Foxconn, adding that the factory workforce is now about two-thirds male and more “rowdy” than when it was half female five years ago. “The younger generation doesn’t want to continue doing work that is very mundane,” he says. Turnover, at 5 percent to 10 percent a month in the electronics sector, is one of Foxconn’s biggest challenges.

The men bring other problems with them: Seventy percent of the 134 female factory workers surveyed in Guangzhou last fall reported experiencing sexual harassment, including offensive comments, leering, and groping, with 15 percent quitting their jobs as a result, according to the Sunflower Women Workers Centre, the nonprofit that conducted the survey. “There are far more men than I expected. Sometimes they act uncivilized, and that makes me uncomfortable,” says 22-year-old Li Meifeng, who came to Foxconn more than six weeks ago.

The majority male workforce may in part be responsible for a record number of strikes. The recent walkout at Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings, a Taiwanese-owned supplier to Nike and Adidas in Dongguan, Guangdong, involved thousands of workers at its factory complex. Of the 100 workers leading the strike, all were men, says Dee Lee, director of the Inno Community Development Organization, which runs a grievance hotline for the workers. A higher male ratio “is definitely good for labor organizing,” says Wang Kan, a professor at the China Institute of Industrial Relations. “They start strikes by appealing to other male workers’ sense of manliness.”

Companies are trying new ways to keep their workers from striking or quitting. Both Foxconn and rival Flextronics International, which assembles Xboxes, say “date nights” where single workers can meet are their most popular organized leisure activities. And grievance hotlines often end up being used for lonely hearts counseling, usually for men, the most frequent callers. “Most of them are pretty young, so at this age they are looking for love,” says Zhou Lijuan, a Foxconn psychological counselor. “Before, workers were most concerned about supporting their family back in the village,” says 26-year-old Henan native Qing Pengxu, the leader of a 60-person assembly line at Flextronics in Zhuhai. “Now they ask, are there many women in this factory? They want to find their future wives on the job.”

By Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg Businessweek

Published on 1 May 2014


Migrants March in Solidarity for International Workers’ Day, Karen News

Hundreds of workers gathered in Mae Sot’s district office today to march through the town and along Asia Highway in solidarity for workers worldwide and to demand their rights and better working conditions for migrants working in Thailand.

Shouting “Fair opportunities for workers! Rights for Workers!” The workers marched down one of Mae Sot’s main streets, curious onlookers poked heads out of windows, shop fronts and doors to grab a look at the marchers as they snaked their way to Asia Highway.

“I am marching in solidarity about issues that affect us migrant workers here in Mae Sot, like equal pay, access to the minimum wage and better conditions,” Myint Myint Maung, 50, a garment worker originally from Burma, said as she relaxed after marching in the heat.

Myint Tazin Zaw, 32, works as a seamstress at a factory in Mae Sot. She said that few people had access to Thailand’s minimum wage of 300 baht per day. “No one I know gets the minimum wage. The most I hear of someone getting for work, as a seamstress is 200 Baht. Personally, if I work from 8am-9pm I will earn 146 Baht,” she said that life was difficult as an undocumented migrant worker in Mae Sot. “Our biggest fear is the Thai police. I have to live at the factory and share a single small room with 6 other people. Life is hard for us.”

An organiser of the march reported to Karen News that more than 20 organisations, including the Yaung Chi Oo Worker Association and the Women’s Union of Burma, attended.

Ooh Sein, 66, who works as a dustbin worker, said that marching gave him a strong feeling of solidarity. “To feed your family – to have dignity – you need to have workers rights,” he said that he would miss out on the 150 baht he would earn from working today but the march was worth it. “Although we have some rights on paper, in reality we have no rights. I am sad and angry so I came and marched today.”

The National Health Commission Office of Thailand on its website estimates that the number of migrant workers currently in Thailand at four million.

A survey of nearly 800 Mae Sot migrant workers by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Tufts University in 2012 found that, “Over the last year, one in five migrants experienced eviction, one in ten suffered physical assault, and one in six was a victim of theft. More than a third of the migrants live in unsafe or unsanitary housing.”

The report noted that migrant workers often did jobs in the agricultural, manufacturing, construction, domestic work and fishing sectors; “jobs that are often dirty, degrading, and dangerous.”

International Workers’ Day is held on May 1st of every year.

By Karen News

Published on 1 May 2014

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