Migrants from the Mekong Neighbourhood Living Together
Seeking Effective Responses to Enable Integration and Social Cohesion
26-28 February 2013, Bangkok, Thailand
On 28 February 2013, concluding a three-day regional Symposium in Bangkok, the Mekong Migration Network launched a series of recommendations advocating for effective responses to enable integration and social cohesion of migrant communities in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
In attendance at the Symposium were 72 representatives of governments, academic institutions, INGOs, NGOs and migrant groups from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar/Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan province of China.
Guest speakers included Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Interior, Royal Government of Cambodia; His Excellency, Mr. U Myint Thein, Deputy Minister, Myanmar Ministry of Labour; Mr. Precha Soravisute, General Inspector, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Royal Government of Thailand; Thailand-based migrant representative Mr. Jai Sak; Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University; Mr. Luca Pierantoni from the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand; and Mrs. Sunee Chaiyarose, Vice President of the Law Reform Commission of Thailand.
Although migration is not a new phenomenon in the Mekong region, migrant communities and host communities have lived side-by-side but not together for many decades.
Mr. Jai Sak, a representative of migrant workers, shared his experience of the challenges facing many migrants that prevent them from being properly included in society. Referring to poor conditions on work sites, a lack of appropriate housing, inadequate facilities and poor sanitation, he described the many factors that contribute to a stereotypical view of migrants and fuel discriminatory attitudes in local communities.
He asked: “How can migrant workers living in these conditions feel empowered, or feel confident to socialize with Thais?”
He cited the lack of freedom of movement, exploitation by employers, especially the non-payment of the legal Thai Baht 300 minimum wage as key factors preventing social inclusion of migrants.
He communicated an important message, directed to the Thai government, stating:
“Many migrant workers really want to connect with and be a part of local communities, but at the moment, opportunities to do so are very rare.”
Dr Sriprapha Petcharamesree reflected that:
“The concept of “Living Together” does not mean you have to be the same as one another. It is not about ‘sameness’.”
She noted that one of the core themes of the ASEAN Community, as found in the Preamble to the ASEAN Charter, is to develop “one sharing and caring community.”
She stated that:
“This is indeed the key to living together. These words must become a reality.”
Her Excellency Ms Chou Bun Eng spoke of the role of Cambodia in assisting its nationals working abroad, she said that:
“There is a need for more coordination between governments, and more coordination in protecting migrants throughout the whole cycle of migration.”
Mr. Luca Pierantoni discussed lessons to be learned from the European Union’s experience of regional integration. He emphasised the important role of the European Court of Justice in adjudicating issues allowing EU citizens to “Live Together” such as the cross-border recognition of professional qualifications.
On this issue, Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree stated:
“I hope to see an ASEAN Court of Justice in my lifetime.”
Mrs. Sunee Chaiyarose discussed the duty of nations in the region to reform laws to adhere to international labour standards, noting:
“Migrant workers contribute the same amount to the social security scheme as Thais, but they get less benefits. This is an issue that must be resolved.”
And further, “Migrant Workers cannot form trade unions as there is no domestic law to support this. We need to amend this.”
His Excellency Mr. U Myint Thein spoke about recent efforts of the Myanmar Government to ensure registration of its citizens in Thailand. He stated that:
“The Government tries to ensure that workers who will travel abroad are accorded swift and smooth processes with minimum expense, to oversee that Myanmar workers are granted the rights and privileges consistent with the foreign country’s labour laws.”
He recognised that exploitative practices by employers and recruitment agencies was going on, for example recruitment agencies charging very high fees and employers seizing migrant worker identity documents.
Referring to recent meetings with authorised recruitment agencies, he said,
“I strictly warned them to follow procedure, and this will happen very often in the future, via the labour attaché and his department.”
He closed his speech by:
“…Urging and exhorting the civil societies… to join forces with our two countries alike, to protect and care for our migrant workers working in Thailand.”
The Mekong Migration Network hopes that the recommendations arising from this Symposium will be taken up by governments, civil society and communities in the Greater Mekong Subregion, as we aspire together to find effective responses to enable integration and social cohesion of all people, without distinction based on nationality, occupation, gender, migration or other status.
Please see the attached document for the full list of recommendations arising from the Symposium.
For further information, please contact:
- Ms. Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator (email@example.com, ph: +852 9369 2244);
- Ms. Pranom Somwong, MMN Advocacy Convener (firstname.lastname@example.org; ph: 083 188 7600); or
- Ms. Jackie Pollock, Chair of MMN Steering Committee (email@example.com; ph: 085 039 5216).
The Press Release and/or the Symposium was covered by the following news: