Category Archives: Other Migration Issues in Mekong
The rickety boat was sighted off the mainland, heading for Koh Yao Yai, a small island that is home to several five-star resorts, between Krabi and Phuket.
Fishing trawlers and a network of small civilian vessels inform local district chiefs of sightings that are usually relayed to Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, which oversees safety at sea.
”We think it was definitely a Rohingya boat,” an official said. ”But we lost contact with it quickly.”
As many as 12,000 members of the Muslim minority in Burma are reported to have fled to sea to avoid persecution since October 15 but only a few hundred have fetched up along Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast, alarming activists who fear something has gone amiss.
”Where are they?” Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which plots migration across the Bay of Bengal, told Reuters on Saturday. ”We have become very concerned.”
Back in 2009, Phuketwan journalists discovered that boatloads of Rohingya were being towed out to sea by the Thai military and left without engines or sails. Hundreds perished at sea before survivors washed ashore in India and Indonesia.
Five years on, there is no suggestion of a similar occurrence. But the families of the thousands who are now missing have no clue as to their fate.
Many could be being kept by traffickers in secret jungle camps in mangrove-covered islands along the shores of the Thai provinces of Phang Nga and Ranong, close to the border with Burma, where more than 500 boatpeople from Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh have been apprehended in recent weeks.
Almost all of those men, women and children have been taken into custody by local officials, working with Buddhist, Christian and Muslim volunteers to halt the flow of human trafficking victims through Thailand.
With each newly-discovered batch of boatpeople comes an extended debate about whether the unwanted arrivals are human trafficking victims or merely illegal immigrants.
Police and welfare organisations are reluctant to treat the arrivals as trafficked victims because funds and government accommodation are limited.
By categorising the Rohingya as ”Burmese” under laws that allow Thailand to deal more easily with unwanted arrivals from neighboring Burma, Laos and Cambodia, officials can quickly truck the apprehended groups back to the border where they are often delivered straight into the arms of human traffickers again.
The Rohingya, stateless in Burma, are denied all rights and being driven from Rakhine state by hateful Buddhist neighbors. It’s ironic that only as unwanted captives in neighboring Thailand can they achieve their aim of being categorised as Burmese citizens.
Along the coast, district authorities and village chiefs have formed networks among fishing boats to alert them to the presence of boatpeople fleeing Burma and Bangladesh.
Officials from the Department of Special Investigations and the Internal Security Operational Command in Bangkok recently visited the Andaman provinces to assess levels of human trafficking.
Of a boatload of 259 men, women and children who were apprehended near the town of Kaper, 80 Bangladeshis have been sent for processing through a court in Ranong while the other 219 are to be deported as ”Burmese Muslims.”
Burma does not accept the Rohingya as citizens so they cannot return. These people are destined for human traffickers.
Of 86 people being held in the nearby town of Kuraburi, 12 categorised as ”Burmese Muslims” are being sent to Immigration in Phang Nga while the others, all Bangladeshis, are to appear in Phang Nga court as illegal immigrants.
As trafficking networks grow along the region’s Indian Ocean coastline, growing numbers of men from Bangladesh are also being enticed onto boats in search of better jobs in Malaysia.
Bangladeshi authorities are holding five Thais who have been accused of human trafficking and other arrests have been made in Thailand.
Boatpeople Apprehended in Thailand, Sailing Season 2014-2015
September 23 37 boat people at Takaupa, categorised as illegal immigrants. Sentenced to 20 days in jail, now held by Immigration for deportation
October 11 53 boatpeople at Takaupa, categorised as victims of human trafficking, held in shelters at Ranong, Songkhla and Phang Nga
October 13 81 boatpeople at Takaupa, categorised as victims of human trafficking, held in shelters at Ranong, Songkhla and Phang Nga
October 24 boatpeople at Suksamran, categorised as illegal immigrants, sent to Ranong Immigration
October 78 boatpeople at Suksamran, Twelve ”Burmese Muslims” sent to Ranong Immigration, Bangladeshis passed to court system
November 8 299 (overnight suddenly reduced to 259) boatpeople at Kaper. 80 Bangladeshis sent Ranong court, 179 ”Burmese Muslims” at Ranong Immigration
November 11 86 boat people at Kuraburi, 12 ”Burmese Muslims” to Phang Nga Immigration, Bangladeshis to Phang Nga court
Vitriol rang from all sides yesterday following a government decision to raise the monthly minimum wage in the garment sector to $128, with labour unions declaring it too little and employer representatives claiming such a large raise could close factories.
The Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) held a vote yesterday morning and emerged with a figure of $123 as next year’s industrial floor salary – up from the current $100.
A meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen directly after the vote led Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng to raise that figure by an additional $5, to $128, a Labour Ministry statement reads.
Union leaders who battled for $140 remained unsure of whether their members would accept the amount, or if they would be prompted to launch a campaign against the government-mandated figure.
Labour rights advocates, meanwhile, expressed concerns that the move could provoke strikes and cause international brands to pull out of Cambodia.
“I hope that unions will understand, because they joined the discussion, that we cannot meet their demand,” said Sam Heng.
He discouraged demonstrations akin to those after last year’s minimum wage decision, which resulted in arrests, violence and at least five deaths.
“Don’t use demonstrations to push for your demands,” Heng said.
Including transportation, seniority and other bonuses, workers will be able to earn a total monthly salary of between $147 and $156 a month next year, a Labour Ministry statement reads.
Unions were clear on their minimum financial needs, said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) and one of two people who voted for a $140 wage at the LAC meeting.
C.CAWDU members will meet on Sunday to discuss their next course of action. “Until [we receive] $140, I’m not satisfied,” Thorn said. “We will discuss with my members; if my members want to campaign [against the wage], we will.”
Disappointment among unions spread beyond independents to government-leaning unions as well.
The LAC’s vote for $123 was unacceptable, said Chuon Mom Thol, president of Cambodia Union Federation (CUF). But even though the final amount is less than unions’ collective demand, the subsequent $5 addition cushioned the blow, he added.
“Now we’ve got $8 above the poverty line, and next year, there will be another negotiation,” Mom Thol said, referring to the $120 poverty line calculated by the International Labour Organization. Based on information “received from the ground, [CUF] rank-and-file members accept” the $128 wage, he added.
But from the point of view of Cambodia’s factory owners, the hike will prove disastrous.
The 28 per cent increase will bankrupt some employers, said Nang Sothy of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).
Between “30 and 50 factories” will close, losing jobs for about 50,000 workers, she said, though employers will still abide by the government’s new wage requirement.
Community Legal Education Center consultant Joel Preston scoffed at GMAC’s “scare tactics” which, he said, lacked any evidence. Preston noted consistent growth in Cambodia’s largest export business, despite GMAC’s persistent assertions that wage increases will drive the industry out of the country. Several brands that buy from Cambodia, H&M among them, have already made public commitments to financially facilitate salary hikes.
What the government and brands should worry about, he continued, is possible unrest resulting from the Labour Ministry’s decision yesterday.
“The government is walking a fine line,” Preston said. “I think there’s a real possibility that we could see a repeat of last year; I don’t think the government or the brands can afford that.”
Even without the violence Cambodia experienced in January, brands could fear the worst-case scenario and leave the country proactively, said Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center.
“You may see brand pullout based on the fear of what they anticipate,” Welsh said.
Given that brands had publicly committed to paying higher prices to support a living wage, Welsh lamented the LAC’s squandering of a perfect chance to raise wages to a point that would have satisfied workers across the board.
“We had this historic opportunity,” Welsh said.
BANGKOK, 13 November 2014 (NNT) – The Ministry of Labour (MOL) has revealed that Thailand and Laos discussed mutual cooperation on the identification process of laborers’ nationality and employment, while seeking to update the MOU every five years.
According to the Minister of Labour Gen. Surasak Kanchanarat, the Minister and Laos Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Thailand have discussed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the employment and nationality identification today.
He said that both sides agreed to update the content of the MOU once every five years, to keep the MOU up to date. Officials from both countries will be working together to update this MOU with the deadline in October 2015, in time with the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
The Laos Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ly Bounkham said that Lao People’s Democratic Republic will be sending their officers to work with Thai officers to help identify the nationality of Laos workers in Thailand as soon as possible.
The nationality identification team will start from provinces with a larger population of Laos workers, then move towards provinces with less Laos workers. However, the Laos Ambassador is concerned that the entire process might be completed by 31 March 2015.
Minister of Labour has stressed that the Ministry is willing to provide assistance. There will be further discussions should the identification process is not completed within the time frame.
Currently, there are 212,562 registered Laos workers with 9,122 in Thailand as aides or followers. The cost for the nationality identification is 3,000 baht per person for both Thai and Laos authorities.
By: National News Bureau of Thailand