Category Archives: Safe Migration
Several hundred Burmese migrant workers at a shrimp factory in Thailand are protesting what they say is exploitation by the owner of the factory, Thai firm CPS.
The roughly 500 workers at the factory in Thailand’s easternmost province of Rayong said they were being exploited by dodgy agents who found them jobs in Thailand after they left Burma under a bilateral agreement between the two countries.
“We have to pay 2,000 to 2,500 baht for rent, but we were promised free accommodation. Plus we have to pay for transport to work,” one of the protesting workers told The Irrawaddy in a phone interview on Thursday.
The workers, who are mostly from Pegu, Irrawaddy and Sagaing Divisions, claim since they arrived in Rayong their wages have been cut and passports and work permits confiscated by the agent.
Kyaw Kyaw borrowed money from a loan shark in his village to pay the agent. Now, due to the agent’s behavior, he says he cannot send any money home to his family to pay back the loan.
He came to Thailand last year using the Burmese labor agency Yewunnaka, which finds Burmese migrant workers jobs in Thailand.
“I had to pay 450,000 kyat ($520) in advance for the transportation and services fee before leaving my home.” recalled Kyaw Kyaw, who comes from Yinmarpin Township in Monywa, Sagaing Division.
He says he spent three months waiting in the border town of Myawaddy before the agency found him a job and he crossed into Thailand near Mae Sot, in Tak Province.
“That cost me extra,” he said, adding that the company covered none of his expenses during his trip.
“I have been working here for three months and earn about 300 baht a day, but I didn’t save anything yet,” Soe Min Pai, a worker from Pegu, told The Irrawaddy.
About 60 of the workers had to wait like Kyaw Kyaw in Myawaddy after paying the hefty advance fee.
Upon arrival, the workers say, they had to work without pay for ten days, and that even now they do not receive their full wages.
They have been told by the company they will get their passports and work permits back after two years.
But their protests have won them some small victories.
“As we have protested for a couple of days, the Thai agent-Hta Nah Wat-gave the passports to those workers who made full payments,” Kyaw Kyaw said. In order to get the documents back, the workers must pay 2,000 baht a month for six months to the agent.
But Maung Win, another worker from Monywa, said it took a year for the company to give him back his documents.
The denial of workers’ rights to Burmese migrants is not uncommon in Thailand.
By Nyein Nyein
Published on 28 March 2013
Asean urged to exchange health records of all migrant workers
Health advocates have urged Asean governments to take better care of migrant workers, including those with HIV/Aids, to prevent diseases from spreading.
The warning follows concerns about health conditions for the workers, most of whom do not have access to health services or are reluctant to seek them out.
Many are illegal workers and they encounter problems communicating with health officials, a recent workshop on migrant labourers’ reproductive health in Phnom Penh was told.
Sunee Talawat, a Thai activist who monitors workers living with HIV/Aids in Southeast Asia, said many Aids-infected migrant workers stop taking their anti-viral drugs after they run out.
Inconsistent treatment results in increased drug resistance, requiring stronger and more expensive drugs.
Ms Sunee said there should be inter-government help to ensure treatment records of workers in their native country can be referenced.
This would ensure that anti-viral drug treatment can continue when they migrate to another country.
She said the exchange of information among members of Asean is crucial as the grouping moves close to the free mobility of workers in 2015.
It should start with professionals in such areas as medicine, nursing and engineering.
Ms Sunee said better health policies would help contain the spread of cross-border diseases.
Migrant workers who illegally enter another country tend to face more health risks because they do not dare to identify themselves and seek mainstream health treatment when they fall ill for fear of being sent home, said Rachael McGuin, of the Mekong Migration Network.
By The Bangkok Post
Published on 7 October 2012
Rights Groups Say Migrants Blocked from Leaving Mae Sot
Migrant rights groups say that thousands of Burmese workers living in the Thai border town of Mae Sot have been prevented from leaving to search for work elsewhere in Thailand, despite possessing legal work permits that allow them to do so.
Yaung Chi Oo, a Mae Sot-based advocacy group that works to protect the rights of Burmese migrant workers, said that factory owners in the town have colluded with local Thai authorities to detain and return workers who attempt to travel to other parts of the country.
Officials from the International Organization for Migration confirmed the reports when contacted by The Irrawaddy, but declined to make a formal statement.
The groups said that the police started blocking workers six months ago in response to complaints from employers who said that they were facing labor shortages. According to official figures, there are around 40,000 Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot who are legally registered to work in Thailand.
These workers are typically paid between 60 and 100 baht (US $1.95 to $3.25) per day, far below the 226 baht ($7.35) they are entitled to under Thai law.
“The Thai employers should pay a fair wage to workers in order to solve the problem of worker shortages. They only give migrants half the pay they should receive,” said Moe Swe, the general secretary of Yaung Chi Oo.
Under Thai law, Burmese workers with legal documentation are free to work anywhere they chose in Thailand, said Moe Swe, adding that an agreement reached between the Thai and Burmese also guarantees Burmese workers the right to travel freely in Thailand.
“As far as I know, Mae Sot is the only place where they impose this restriction,” he said.
Although Thai law is also supposed to ensure that workers are fairly paid, rights groups say this rarely happens in practice. This, says Moe Swe, is why many Burmese are attempting to leave Mae Sot in search of better wages.
In one case described by Moe Swe, a factory owner in Mae Sot who recently hired 90 Burmese workers complained that two-thirds of them had “run away” within a month of starting the job.
But while the labor shortage and measures to contain it are relatively new problems, abuses of workers’ rights have existed in Mae Sot for decades, according to Andy Hall, a consultant at the Human Rights Development Foundation (HRDF) and a foreign expert at Mahidol University in Bangkok.
“The situation in Mae Sot is one of systematic and carefully planned and orchestrated migrant labor rights violations and has been for a long time now, in fact, for decades,” said Hall.
“Despite links to overseas markets and consumers who even more than Thailand should be ensuring rights of all workers in their production chains, Mae Sot export-orientated and labor-intensive factories are amongst some of the most blatant violators of worker rights in the world, with too many workers receiving no more than workers inside Myanmar and sometimes even less,” he added.
In addition to legally registered workers, rights groups estimate that there are at least 100,000 illegal workers from Burma in Mae Sot. Many of these workers earn no more than a dollar or two a day, and reports of debt bondage, forced labor and child labor are more common here than anywhere else in the country.
Some workers report getting paid nothing at all, while others say that their already low salaries are subject to numerous unlawful deductions.
“The situation in Mae Sot is generally unacceptable and there has been little genuine attempt by Thailand to address the abuse that continues there,” said Hall.
Until Thailand—and Burma—do something to stem the abuses faced by workers in Mae Sot, rights groups say the exodus to other parts of Thailand will continue no matter what the authorities do to stop it.
“As long as the Thai employers [in Mae Sot] continue to exploit workers, there will be no solution to this problem, because more people are going go to Bangkok even if they are banned from traveling,” said Moe Swe.
By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY
Published on 2 October 2012
Eleven Burmese migrants were rescued when the fishing boats they were forced to work on were raided by a team of Thai Department of Special Investigation (DSI) officers on Wednesday at Tambon Saem San in Chonburi near Bangkok.Sompong Sakaew, the director of the Labor Rights Protection Network (LPN), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that DSI police officers raided two boats in Saem San port the evening before.
An LPN representative who witnessed the raid on the fishing boats said the DSI officers arrested three Mon men who had allegedly bought the 11 Burmese migrants, then forced them to work on the boats 20 hours a day for wages of just 30 baht (US $1) per day.
Among the three suspects is a 15-year-old youth, he said, adding that the raid had been conducted after a phone call from one of the victims alerted the DSI.
The 11 reportedly told their rescuers that they had been held as “slaves” on the fishing boats for seven months.
The victims apparently crossed over the Thai-Burmese border near Mae Sot with the assistance of brokers and were then handed to ethnic Mon employment agents in Thailand who in turn arranged for them to work on the fishing boats.
“The broker in Mae Sot first told the victims they would work at a fisheries plant, not on board trawlers,” the LPN representative said. “That’s why they agreed to come.”
“The employers bought the victims for 8,000 baht [$265] each from the broker,” said the LPN representative. “Then they forced them to work, but did not pay them salaries.”
He said that the victims had been interviewed after the raid, and had told officers that they had been locked on board the vessels, had been poorly fed, and had been beaten when they could not work.
He said that the 11 are being held at a safe house in Chonburi and will be deported to the Thai-Burmese border after the authorities have concluded their investigation of the case.
Human trafficking is very prevalent in central Thailand where there is a large fishing industry. Many Burmese migrants seek work in the area and end up being trafficked to fishing boats and forced to work for many months at sea for little or no pay.
According to a US report, the Thai government “reported 18 convictions in trafficking-related cases in 2010-an increase from eight known convictions during the previous year. As of May 2011, only five of the 18 convictions reported by the government could be confirmed as trafficking offenses.”
By Lawi Weng
Published on 14 June 2012
Nearly 150 Burmese migrant workers, who for up to two years had been locked inside a shrimp factory in Mahachai near Bangkok, were rescued on Tuesday by Thai police and social organizations.Kyaw Thaung, a spokesperson for the Burmese Association in Thailand (BAT), told The Irrawaddy that his organization found out about the workers through an employee who had escaped.
“There are 146 workers altogether. They were placed in the basement underneath the factory and forced to work like slaves,” said Kyaw Thaung.
He said the BAT staff informed local authorities about the conditions in the factory and the plight of the desperate workers, but were told they would have to produce stronger evidence, such as photographs or videos, before the authorities could take further action.
The staffer, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Irrawaddy that he had to risk his life to obtain such evidence.
“I had to shoot photos and videos secretly, and I was afraid of being found out by the factory thugs or the police. I don’t have any documents to stay in Thailand,” he said.
After his evidence was submitted to local Thai police and a UN agency, the factory owner, Burmese charge-hands and security guards were arrested, and the workers were finally freed from bondage.
The rescue effort also reportedly involved the BAT, the Anti-Human Trafficking Division of the Royal Thai Police (AHTD), United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) based in Thailand’s Phang Nga Province, and the Burmese embassy in Bangkok.
A male worker who escaped from virtual slavery told The Irrawaddy that some of the victims were trapped there for up to two years and that when unwell were not allowed to receive medical treatment. Everybody had to work approximately 20 hours a day without any days off, he said.
He also said that Kyaw Soe, the Burmese charge-hand who was arrested together with the factory owner, treated the workers cruelly and even slapped their faces sometimes.
“Once I got out of the factory, I felt I had gone from hell to heaven,” he said.
On May 15, Thai police in nearby Samut Prakan Province arrested more than 1,000 migrant workers, 386 of whom were from Burma, while the rest were from Laos and Cambodia. The arrest was carried out due to alleged drug dealing by some workers, Thai newspapers reported.
According to organizations assisting migrant workers in Thailand, there are about four million Burmese, only half of whom have official documents, currently working in the kingdom.
By Khin Oo Thar
Published on 17 May, 2012