Saturday, 9 April 2016

Andy Hall on the MoU system of migrant employment in Thailand

Andy Hall offers some excellent critiques of the fraught MoU system for employment of migrants in Thailand, which facilitates debt bondage and other constraints on migrants changing employers.   
The system had failed in that it obliged migrant workers to stick to an assigned workplace as indicated in the contract. Worse, the system grants the right to agencies without workplaces to accommodate the workers. With such a (MoU) system, those who want -- or are forced to -- to change workplaces, have no other choice but to throw away the official documents, despite their financial and psychological worth, and instead opt for the pink card, which enables them to change workplaces. However, holders of this semi-regular migrant worker card are at risk of being deprived of social security benefits. With the pink card, workers have limited freedom of movement and could face deportation.
"MoU system still exploits workers," Bangkok Post, 8 April 2016

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Myanmar Times: NLD takes first steps on migrant policy

Nyan Lynn Aung and Htoo Thant report:
In its first, tenuous start toward a policy on migrant workers, the National League for Democracy is drawing up a bill to address the millions of citizens outside the country. The Pyithu Hluttaw International Relations Committee has een tasked with drafting the legislation after assessing the needs of the workers. “We are now making observations for the bill. I think it will take three months to complete the observations,” said committee member U Myo Zaw Aung, a lower house representative for Sagaing Region’s Kawlin township. He did not say which aspects of migration the bill would aim to address. But rights groups that have met with the new government have stressed the need for long-term policy planning to replace the current capricious system that relies on temporary and only semi-legal identification documents. U Myo Zaw Aung acknowledged that problems with Myanmar’s economy – particularly the lack of job opportunities in rural areas – need to be addressed so that workers are not compelled to leave in the first place.
"NLD takes first steps on migrant policy," The Myanmar Times, 7 April 2016

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Update on migrant registration in Thailand

My favourite Myanmar Times' journalist Nyan Lynn Aung provides a detailed report on the ever-changing registration situation for migrants in Thailand:
Passport-holding migrant workers in Thailand are furious over a new policy that will see them slide into a legal grey zone, and be levied with a barrage of fees along the way. Over 1 million temporary passport holders will not be allowed to renew their expiring residency documents, issued between 2009 and 2013 as part of a national verification process. Instead, they are being told to forfeit their legal status, and apply for “pink cards” that leave them vulnerable to arrest and deportation.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Thailand to Myanmar spatial fix?

A brief comment on which we might speculate about a Thailand to Myanmar spatial fix:
There are some bright spots – several Thai garment manufacturers have relocated to Yangon citing lower wages and production costs – bearing in mind generators and other self sufficient energy resources needed to be installed. However, at present, despite its allure, Myanmar remains a difficult country at present to do business. The new Government needs to take stock, produce a sustainable foreign investment culture, and then look at raising funds to secure much needed infrastructure development investments. Manufacturing meanwhile will in time be a possibility – but not until a better quality of education and training in skill sets can be introduced on a mass level.
"Cambodia, Laos & Myanmar – 2016 Foreign Investment Outlook," Asia Briefing, 1 April 2016.

Su Su Nway rearrested

Labour and land activist Su Su Nway was arrested last week for giving an "educational talk" critical of exploitation of squatters:
Police arrested land rights activist Su Su Nway yesterday for an educational talk she held in Hlaingthaya Township, Yangon, in 2014. She has been charged under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. “At that time, I didn’t talk about anything political, except ward affairs. I talked about not taking profit from squatters by renting houses and systematically constructing bathrooms. I committed no offences,” said Su Su Nway. “She was taken to Insein Prison after deciding not to appeal. She knew she didn’t commit any offences, and so she didn’t appeal for bill,” said her husband Markee. Su Su Nway was sentenced to 21 days in prison by a Bago Region court for helping farmers and charged under Section 18 by the Pyin Oo Lwin Township court.
"Activist Su Su Nway arrested for educational speech," Eleven Media, 29 March 2016.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Developments in Thailand's post-coup migrant registration

Following the May 2014 coup in Thailand, the new military government cancelled the prior migrant registriation process, and replaced in with the so-called "pink cards".  The following provides some information on new procedures for migrants to move from the "pink cards" to more expansive registration.  But why are migrants in the fisheries sector excluded?
Chaiyaphum province has opened the One Stop Service Center, servicing migrant workers from neighboring countries who are looking for jobs in the area... [the registration services] are available for workers who possess immigrant identification cards issued by the National Council for Peace and Order, and workers from the three countries who have completed the nationality verification process and are holding identification documents, issued by their country of origin, such as passport or other identification papers. The service is however unavailable for workers from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia who are employed in the fisheries and seafood processing industry.
"Chaiyaphum opens immigrant workers One Stop Service Center," National News Bureau of Thailand, 30 March 2016. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Japanese investment in GMS development

On Japanese investment in GMS development:
Japan has agreed to provide US$21 million worth of aid to help upgrade human resources and workers in countries within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) for three years... Japanese and Thai specialists will be dispatched to provide training for workers in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar... Thai officials have been asked to help by easing access for foreign workers' work permits and entry visas... the Japanese government pledged ¥750 billion ($6.1 billion) for assistance to five GMS countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam -- as part of a new strategy for Mekong-Japanese cooperation during 2016-18... This move comes amid China's active efforts to promote the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which Japan sees as a challenge to the Asian Development Bank it founded. The Thai government must invest more in education to produce a labour force that can match the demands of Japanese industry, it said.. Japan adjusted its educational system and allocated funds for training to create a skilled labour force capable of meeting rising demand amid industrial expansion, especially after the government instituted numerous policies to promote investment.
"Japan allots $21m to raise standards," Bangkok Post, 29 March, 2016.