Category Archives: Other Migration Issues in Mekong

Must stamp out illegal migrant camps, says Phuket V/Gov

The vice governor said officials are struggling to determine which camps have been officially approved and which ones need to be torn down. Photo: Gazette file
The vice governor said officials are struggling to determine which camps have been officially approved and which ones need to be torn down. Photo: Gazette file

PHUKET: Local officials must prevent illegal migrant camps from popping up along construction sites throughout the province, Phuket Vice Governor Prajiad Aksornthammakul said on Tuesday.

“Foreign workers build their shacks in and around local communities. They live in unhygienic conditions that spread disease, and indulge in the illegal trade of vegetables, fish and drugs,” said Vice Governor Prajiad Aksornthammakul.

The vice governor’s concerns arise in the wake of efforts last year by then-Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong to improve the quality of life for migrant workers on the island (story here).

At the time, the island was home to 226 migrant worker camps – 108 in Phuket Town, 16 in Kathu and 102 in Thalang – housing more than 10,000 workers, explained Gov Nisit. There are now more than 74,000, confirmed Pitoon Damsakorn, director of the Employment Office.

“Not all of the camps on the island are illegal. However, we are struggling to determine which ones have been officially approved and which ones need to be torn down,” Vice Governor Prajiad said. “The key is for us to get a better understanding of the zoning of these structures.”

“The construction companies that these migrants work for need to step forward, and provide all legal documents necessary to establish that the camps occupied by their workers are legal,” explained the V/Gov.

“Fundamentally, the responsibility lies with the construction companies, because they have hired them and brought them here specifically for this work.”

By: Phuket Gazette
Published on: 22 April 2016

Vietnamese workers flock to Thailand, Laos for jobs

HANOI (Viet Nam News/ANN) – Many Vietnamese residents have travelled to Thailand and Laos to look for jobs with higher wages after a long holiday.
Thousands of labourers from the central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh in Vietnam have !ocked to Thailand and Laos to look for higher-paying jobs after the Lunar New Year (Tet).Hoang Ngoc Tan, 23, of Duc Long Commune in Ha Tinh province’s Duc Tho district, said he was hired in Vietnam after graduating from a vocational college, but the income was low, so he considered moving to Laos in hopes of making better wages.A number of his friends have found jobs in Laos with a monthly income of 9 million dong (Bt14,000), Tan said.”Once I was there, I would work hard to save money to assist my parents and my marriage later,” he said.A 24-year-old woman who identified herself as Huong, of Thach Ha district’s Ngoc Son Commune, said that after coming home for Tet, she decided to return to work in Thailand because workers there enjoy higher incomes than in Vietnam.

After paying all expenses, she could save about 7 million dong (Bt11,000) from working as a waitress at a restaurant in Thailand, Huong said.

Nguyen Duc Thuan, head of Ha Tinh province’s immigration office, said the number of people who applied for passports increased sharply on the first working days after Tet (February 15 and 16).

Thuan said the office’s staff had worked hard to handle more than 1,000 applications on February 15, whereas normally they receive 500 people.

Most applicants travel to Laos and Thailand, he added.

Geographical advantages, easy-to-find jobs and a high percentage of overseas Vietnamese in these countries are reasons for the free flow of labour into Thailand and Laos, insiders said.

Vietnamese workers normally enter Thailand on tourist visas and then stay on to work as hired labourers without permits, they said.

Most Vietnamese labourers in Thailand work as household helpers, food servers, and employees in the fishery industry or on construction sites, according to Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer).

On average, a worker there can earn between 6-8 million dong ($269-358) Bt9,500 and Bt12,700 a month. Some can earn wages between 10 million dong ($448) and 12 million dong ($538) Bt16,000-Bt19,000 a month.

This is a considerable sum of money compared with the average monthly salary of a Vietnamese worker, which was 3.8 million dong (Bt6,000) last year.

In the central province of Nghe An, the number of illegal workers heading to neighbouring countries is also growing.

cited Hundreds of people reportedly came to the immigration office to apply for travel documents such as passports and laissez-passer documents after Tet.

To Huu Tri, deputy head of Nghe An province’s immigration office, said the number of applications increased fivefold from the normal rate after Tet.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of labourers working in Thailand, even though illegal migration is a pressing issue in the province.

Statistics from Nghe An province’s police showed that |about 378 people had worked |illegally in Thailand in 2014 |while the province’s Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Department office estimated the figure was 800.

These workers are mainly from the districts of Do Luong, Con Cuong, Nghi Loc and Hung Nguyen.

Labour shortage’

While Vietnamese labourers struggle to earn a decent living abroad, many domestic businesses are short of workers.

Nguyen Tien Hoa, director of the Ha Tinh Employment Service Centre, which is under the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said 35 enterprises took part in the first job fair in Ha Tinh province, seeking around 300 employees in the fields of accounting, business management, mechanical engineering, and information technology.

However, Hoa said, a number of businesses found it difficult to find suitable employees, including manual labourers, because few workers registered for jobs at the centre.

“One should not blame local authorities for not informing local people about the issue. As a matter of fact, employees flocked to places where wages are higher,” he told the Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper.

In hopes of improving their livelihoods, many people continue working abroad illegally despite facing problems like being underpaid, forgoing protections and medical insurance, and having a higher risk of being laid off, Hoa said.

Le Tien Dung, deputy director of Ha Tinh province’s Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs office, said it was difficult to stop labourers from going to Thailand to find jobs, but they should be warned about the risks they might face.

He called for better management of household registration books to prevent local residents from working abroad illegally.

(US$1 = 22,000 dong)

By: News Desk, Asia News Network
Published on: 3 March 2016

The container village migrants oiling Thailand’s economy, AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) – The village sprang up in a matter of days — neat lines of bright yellow houses that looked like something a child might have built with Lego bricks. This eye-catching complex on the outskirts of Bangkok is unlikely to win any architectural awards.
But for the hundreds of migrants who live there it is an unusually neat home in a country where poorly paid foreign workers all too often toil in harsh conditions.

The village is made out of refurbished shipping containers, stacked three blocks high and connected by a series of walkways and ladders.

Over the next three years its 800 or so inhabitants will construct one of the many luxury condo blocks that add to the Thai capital’s ever-shifting skyline.

Standing amid piles of bags and boxes as she prepares to move into her container, 28-year old Cambodian national Duan is upbeat, despite having momentarily mislaid her television.

“Life here is better,” she tells AFP. “Living in Cambodia was good but I couldn’t earn as much money.”

Duan is one of an estimated four million foreign migrant workers who have flocked to Thailand in search of higher wages, often in the kind of low-paid, physically demanding and sometimes dangerous industries that comparatively wealthy Thais now have little appetite for.

The vast majority of these workers, many of whom are undocumented, hail from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos and work inside the construction, agriculture, fishing and manufacturing industries.

Without them Thailand’s economy would grind to a halt.

– Jobs no-one else will do –


“Migrant labourers are now working in areas where Thais no longer wish to work,” explains Jeff Labovitz, chief of mission in Thailand for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“They’re more dangerous than other jobs, the conditions are not necessarily as good and the pay is not necessarily as high. But for those people coming to Thailand, it’s much higher and much better than it is in their home country,” he adds.

Strumming a guitar inside his shipping container home, Dam, 30, is typical of those who oil the lower rungs of Thailand’s economy.

As a welder he earns 400 baht ($11) a day, almost three times the average daily wage in his native Laos.

And because his accommodation is already paid for by the construction company, most of that money goes home to his family of rice farmers.

“I do not really suffer here. I have fun in Bangkok… I just live my life freely,” he says.

To say Dam and his fellow construction workers have it easy would be an overstatement.

Their accommodation is spartan, not to mention sweltering in a country where even nighttime temperatures rarely dip below 30C (86F) for much of the year.

While the container homes boast electricity, they don’t have running water and bathing takes place communally, with thin sarongs to protect female modesty.

Each 12m-long container is divided into four sections, with some housing an entire family of four.

– Abuses commonplace –


But others have it much worse. Rights groups have long documented exploitative and dangerous conditions for Thailand’s migrant workers.

It is not uncommon to see migrants jammed into pick-up trucks being ferried across Thai towns, sleeping in makeshift huts and bathing their children by the roadside after a long day of work.

Max Tunon, a regional official at the International Labour Organization, says inspectors can only check on working conditions if it is included in an employee’s contract.

“Even if inspectors do gain access, they are limited to only giving advice on how to improve conditions, but cannot make orders on living conditions,” he adds.

Sexual harassment in communal bathing areas, he adds, is a “specific problem” the ILO is investigating.

Earlier this year the European Union threatened to blacklist Thailand’s fishing industry, partially because of conditions faced by migrant workers on board vessels.

The United States also placed the kingdom on the bottom tier of its human trafficking index for the second year running.

Those who blow the whistle are rarely greeted as heroes.

Thailand-based British rights activist Andy Hall is facing both civil and criminal defamation proceedings over a recent report he co-authored exposing rights abuses in the country’s lucrative fruit picking industry.

The cases are being brought by one of the exposed fruit companies as well as Thailand’s Attorney General.

As sun sets on the container village, the stony ground outside becomes an impromptu village square with groups grilling fish and playing volleyball.

Most of the workers will be up at 5.30 am the following day. And once the condo block is built, the container village will be moved to the next construction project.

Published on 25 October 2015

Thailand: World’s largest canned tuna company linked to slavery, environmental crimes, Asian Correspondent

Environmentally destructive, unregulated and guilty of shocking human rights abuses, the tuna industry is a dirty business. The biggest tuna company in the world, Thai Union Group, has become a target of a global campaign by environmental activist organization, Greenpeace, in the hope that exposure and pressure will result in some positive changes from the Thailand-based seafood firm.

Thai Union Group has processing plants in Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa and the United States. It encompasses several leading seafood companies under its brand umbrella, including Chicken of the Sea (USA); John West (UK) Petit Navire and Parmentier (France); Mareblu (Italy); as well as top Thai brands Sealect, Fisho and Bellotta.

Greenpeace has already had success pressuring companies in Australia and the UK to clean up their tuna supply chains and wants the world’s largest tuna firm to improve behavior in terms of overfishing, labor abuse, impact on local communities, destructive fishing practices, and using “transshipping” to hide illegal fishing practices.

Thai Union Group linked to slavery at sea

In July a New York Times exposé revealed how fishing boats that supplied catch to Thai Union Group-owned canneries used kidnapped and enslaved migrant workers, mainly from Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma).

Thai Union has come under increased scrutiny since the New York Times piece, as well as a lawsuit against Nestle. Though Thai Union wasn’t the company being sued, the case was predicated on Nestle’s purchasing of fish from a known user of slave labor (TUG) for its Fancy Feast cat food brand.

Here is an extract from the lawsuit (via Undercurrent News):

“Instead of true employment, men and boys are sold as slaves by brokers and smugglers to fishing captains in Thai ports in need of labor. Once sold, these men and boys… enter a modern form of indentured servitude where they are required to work to pay off the price the captains paid to purchase them.”

Not just tuna, not just people, but dogs and cats too

Greenpeace’s campaign against environmental and human rights abuses in the global tuna industry is named “Not just tuna”, in order to highlight that the issue is not simply one of ecological degradation due to overfishing, but also of health and human rights.

Furthermore, it is not just people who are consuming vast amounts of unethical tuna. Some of the US’s top pet food brands — including Meow Mix, Fancy Feast (Nestle) and Iams — have bought some 28 million pounds of seafood-based cat and dog food from Thai Union Group. The ships it contracts supply forage fish for pet food and agricultural feed for pigs, chickens and farmed fish in the United States.

The U.S. is the largest customer of Thai fish with a large and rapidly growing portion of it destined for the pet food industry. In fact, the average cat in the U.S. eats twice as much food as the average human — around 30 pounds per year.

Greenpeace demands real change, not just polished cans

While Thai Union has launched a shiny new PR campaign to improve its image, Greenpeace would like to see concrete changes in industry practices, particularly transparency in order that consumers can be aware of where their product is coming from and how it is sourced.

Thai Union Group’s British John West brand claims on its packaging that its tuna is 100 percent traceable, yet Greenpeace has revealed that, as of now, this is simply not true. Last month 14 brands of canned tuna on the Thai market failed Greenpeace’s tests for sustainability, traceability and equity.

By Graham Land
Published on 20 October 2015

Bank data show remittance flows rising, The Phnom Penh Post

Cross-border remittance transfers continue to rise despite slower growth in Asian economies as more Cambodians seek work abroad to support their families back home, an economist said yesterday, commenting on recent data.

Worker remittances, which comprise personal transfers by migrant workers to their households back home, doubled last year and continue to grow.

Cambodian migrant workers sent the equivalent of $363 million home in 2014, up from $167 million a year earlier, according to central bank figures. Worker remittances amounted to $110 million in the first quarter of 2015, putting the year on course to top $450 million.

The actual size of cross-border remittance flows is believed to be much higher as migrant workers – especially those working in neighbouring Thailand – often send back money through informal channels.

Economist Srey Chanthy said the rising value of remittance transactions reflects the fact that more Cambodians are seeking work abroad, while banks are keeping closer tabs on cross-border transactions.

“Increased remittances are due to the increased number of overseas workers and better reporting on their remittances,” he said.

Chanthy said that remittances, which account for about 2 per cent of GDP, are an important source of capital for Cambodian families that receive them and can be used on consumption – such as food, education, health and clothes – or investments.

“The spending contributes to current economic development, while investments contribute to future economic development,” he said.

More than 700,000 Cambodians – both documented and undocumented – work in Thailand, according to the Ministry of Labour. South Korea and Malaysia also have sizeable populations of migrant Cambodian workers.

Acleda Bank, an artery for Cambodian remittance transactions, has felt a surge in inbound money transfers, according to So Phonnary, the bank’s executive vice president.

“We’re seeing a trend of increased inbound transactions to Cambodia as more people work abroad and send money to their families,” she said.

According to the bank’s records, Acleda received total remittances of $130.3 million from South Korea, $89.9 million from Thailand and $8.7 million from Malaysia in the first eight months of the year.

By comparison, Acleda Bank received inbound remittances of $119.5 million from South Korea, $94.2 million from Thailand and $13.8 million from Malaysia during the whole of 2014.

In addition to these direct bank transfers, Acleda also handled inbound remittance payments sent via Western Union.

Lured abroad by the prospect of higher wages, Cambodian migrant workers say an ever-widening array of money transfer options help them to support their families back home.

Sim Sothea, who lives and works in South Korea, said he usually sends money back to his family whenever they run short.

“It depends on my family’s needs,” said Sothea. “I usually send them money once every two or three months, though some of my friends here send money home every day.”

By Sor Chandara
Published on 9 October 2015

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