28 December 2020– For Immediate Release
Since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the situation of migrant workers in Thailand has become increasingly precarious. With the global reach of the pandemic disrupting supply chains and closing national borders, migrant workers employed in tourism and export-orientated manufacturing have been especially hard hit by the economic downturn. Migrant workers in other sectors have also had their wages and working hours cut and are currently facing a prolonged period of uncertainty. The recent spike in COVID-19 infections in and around Samut Sakhon has fueled xenophobia against Thailand’s much maligned migrant workers, whose resilience has already been stretched to its limit.
As part of the Mekong Migration Network’s efforts to amplify the voice of migrants, we have published a short booklet entitled, “Resilience and Uncertainty: Mekong Migrant Workers amid the Pandemic Downturn”. The work is a compilation of 16 stories told by migrants in Mae Sot, Chiang Mai, Ranong and Pang Nga. The stories show how, despite the challenges, migrants in Thailand endeavour to overcome the current downturn and to support their loved ones.
Aye, a Shan hotel cleaner in Chiang Mai and a single mother of three children saw her income cut in half as a result of the pandemic downturn. She struggles to earn enough to meet her family’s daily needs and now has a 50,000-baht debt from an informal money lender hanging over her head. She said:
“I feel very frustrated and disheartened and sometimes I cry. I put water in a bucket and scream into the water when I feel so stressed. I used to think about committing suicide but I changed my mind when looking at my children. They are my encouragement to keep fighting.” (“Resilience and Uncertainty”, p 15)
Nyo Ma, a 31-year-old woman from Myanmar and her husband who worked together on a ferry boat carrying passengers between Ranong in Thailand, and Kaw Taung, in Myanmar suddenly lost their jobs when the international border closed due to the pandemic. In order to support themselves and their son, they have also fallen into debt and the stress of their current situation is overwhelming. Nyo Ma said:
“When the border closed down, we suddenly had no income at all. That made me mentally break down. I went to the ocean and cried and shouted out loud. I even wanted to jump into the water to commit suicide. But thinking about my son made me keep going.” (“Resilience and Uncertainty”, p 27)
These are not isolated instances. Migrants, despite their significant contribution to Thailand’s economy, have for long lived on the edges of Thai society. The recent outbreak in Samut Sakhon is a reminder that now is a time of compassion and collective action to ensure that no one is left behind.
To download the PDF of the booklet, click here.
To view MMN statement on the outbreak of COVID-19 in Samut Sakhon, click here.