Sunday, 29 July 2012

Burmese Migrants Gunned Down In Southern Thailand

DVB reports on the killings of three Myanmar migrant workers:
Three Burmese migrant workers in southern Thailand’s Phang-nga and Songkhla provinces were shot and killed by unknown gunmen in two separate incidents on 25 July.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Thai-Myanmar intergovernmental meeting on migrants

With Myanmar president Thein Sein's meeting with Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra on 23 July, an agreement was reached to only allow registration of migrant workers through the government-to-government MoU process following the 14 December deadline for the registration of migrants already living in Thailand. A few articles have details of this meeting and the resulting agreements.

The Nation, 27 July, 2012
The December 14 deadline for registration of illegal migrant workers will not be extended, because Thailand wants to change the system, with workers only being brought here via government-to-government contracts in the long run, Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap said yesterday. The minister cited agreements discussed in a meeting with President Thein Sein during his visit to Bangkok this week, saying Myanmar workers would be brought here via state agreements. The deals would last for two years but not exceed four years. In regard to the deadline to register "illegals", he said it had been extended many times but December 14 would be the final date.
Asian Correspondent, 27 July, 2012
President of Burma or Myanmar, Mr. Thein Sein met Thai Prime Minister Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra at Thai Koo Fah of State Guesthouse in Bangkok, Thailand on Monday (23 July)... Thus, the President urged pushing ahead for urgent implementation of Dawei Special Economic Zone’. It is necessary to create jobs for people living along the border regions to assure their socio-economic life. Due to rising stability along Thai-Burma border, Thein Sein said that his government would open more border trade camps, more border industrial zones and establish commercial-scale cultivated areas and industrialized businesses along the border, revealed the President. He also proposed for formally opening of border trade camps in Htiki and other available places along the Thai-Burma border... The Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guaranteed the same salary for Burmese migrant workers equal to Thai workers.
Mizzima, 27 July, 2012
Burma and Thailand are planning a major overhaul in how migrant workers can enter and work in Thailand, the Minister of Labour said on Friday. Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap said that Thailand wants to change the system with workers only being brought here via government-to-government contracts in the long run.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Bloomberg on investment in Myanmar

Bloomberg has published an informative article on the statistics motivating increased foreign investment in Myanmar.
The currency dropped 1.7 percent in the past month to about 871 per dollar... reducing labor costs in a country where manufacturers can employ six workers for the price of one in Guangzhou, China... Laborers in Myanmar’s manufacturing industries earned an average monthly salary of about 50,437 kyat ($58) last year... A falling currency makes Myanmar wages and goods cheaper for foreign companies and overseas buyers... Myanmar is also attractive to manufacturers that want to diversify geographic risks... “The workers are very hard working and hungry for jobs,” said [the] chairman of... an umbrella group for most of the city’s garment manufacturers. “In a year or so, we will see a lot more investment to the country.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Burmese Labor Minister Meets Labor Rights NGOs

The Irrawaddy reports on the recent meeting between Labour Minister Aung Kyi and Thailand-based labour rights organisations, including FED and MAP Foundation.
Burma’s Labor Minister Aung Kyi met with representatives of five NGOs at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday when they discussed issues surrounding Burmese migrant workers, their rights, and the conditions they work under. The meeting was arranged as part of President Thein Sein’s three-day visit to Thailand where he focused mostly on cementing plans to proceed with the Dawei Special Economic Zone.

Underaged Myanmar maids working in S'pore

Singapore's AsiaOne News reports on underage Myanmar migrant women being recruited as maids in Singapore.
Girls from Myanmar, some as young as 16 years old, are being sent to Singapore to work as maids, say agents and recruiters. The Straits Times reported that these girls used passports with false ages to enter Singapore as domestic workers.  In 2005, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) set a requirement that all foreign maids in Singapore must be at least 23 years old... There are currently 206,000 maids here with the majority from Philippines and Indonesia, and only an estimated 10,000 are from Myanmar.  Myanmar maids earn about $400 and $420 a month in Singapore, according to the report.

Myanmar migrants caught growing pot

The Nation reports on Myanmar migrants detained to be charged with land encroachment.  The reason, apparently, was that they intended to cultivate marijuana on a patch of protected forest.
Myanmar authorities Thursday revealed that 23 Myanmar workers were arrested along with the 92 Thai land encroachment suspects taken into custody on July 4, an informed source reported.  Like the Thais, the local workers would be charged with encroaching on forestland without permission.  The Myanmar authorities were processing the case speedily and notified the Thais of five charges against them; illegal entry, encroaching on forestland without permission, growing the narcotic plants marijuana and kratom, possessing war weapons, and obstructing officials performing their duty. They would be brought to court on July 27, the source said.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

‘Hundis’ Cheaper than Bank Transfers: Migrants

The Irrawaddy reports on remittances strategies for Myanmar migrant workers.
Burmese migrant workers in foreign countries welcomed the news on Jan. 1 that the country’s banks would officially allow them to remit funds to their families in Burma. However, some eight months into the scheme and migrants in Southeast Asia are finding that the charges for official transfers are higher than they previously paid using informal money agents, or hundi.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Protection too costly for many Myanmar workers

The Nation reports on the high cost, red tape and corruption hindering migrants acquisition of passports and work permits in Mahachai.
Many Myanmar migrant workers have to live without real legal protection because they cannot afford the inflated fees charged by some agents for nationality verification.  "All the fees related to the process in fact should not exceed Bt2,000 per person, but we have found that most workers pay at least Bt5,500," said Kyaw Zaw Linn, the Samut Sakhon location coordinator of the Migrant Justice Programme. He has also worked for the Human Rights and Development Foundation.  About 700,000-800,000 Myan-mar people have completed the nationality verification process in Thailand and become registered migrant workers, who are entitled to many legal rights and protection, he said.  "But many other migrant workers have no chance to get such protection because they cannot scrape up the fees," he said.

Misery in “Little Myanmar”

The Nation and Eleven Media have a joint article on conditions for migrant workers in Mahachai:
The area is officially under the control of the Thai police department. Migrant workers have to pay a fee to Thai police officers monthly to avoid arrest. Police officers usually charge Bt800 per month for a shop owner who does not have any verification on hand. A migrant worker can get arrested easily by police who make up stories about their illegal activities. When that happens, a price must be negotiated between the worker and police. The price could be anywhere between Bt4,500 and Bt25,000. Commonly trumped-up charges by police include the playing of illegal three-digit lotteries and drug-related offences...
  • 2 million Myanmar workers in Thailand are legal and 700,000-800,000 have become legal through the nationality verification process.
  • Almost 1 million others are illegal.
  • 120,000 Myanmar migrants are working in Samut Sakhon province legally.
  • Tens of thousands of other Myanmar workers there are illegal, but 80,000 are joining the nationality verification process to become legal workers.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Transnational corporations to "save" Myanmar workers?

The Toronto Star has a relatively extensive recent article about foreign investment in Myanmar--particularly in extractive industries.  Describing the overwork and low pay of factory workers in the Hlaing Thar Yar industrial zone, the authors of the article cite female factory workers:
The women urged reporters to relay their story to the international community using the few English words they knew: "Save us. Help us."
What specifically these woman were hoping for in their appeal is not made clear.  But the authors of the article seem to believe it was (or should be) transnational corporations:
Help is coming.
With harsh military rule easing and the recent suspension of sanctions by Canada, the United States and the European Union, Western firms are rushing to set up businesses in Burma.  Oil giants Total and Chevron are already here, as are companies from China, the country’s largest outside investor.
The article goes on to quote Canadian Conservative MP Dave Van Kesteren, making a questionable claim about the "social conscience" of Canadian mining corporations:
"Quite frankly, your investment will come where there is a return, and we know extraction is where your greatest return is going to be,” he told human rights committee members. “My suggestion to you is to welcome that, embrace that, especially when it comes from Western countries that have proven they have a strong, what we call, social conscience."
For more information on the "social conscience" of Canadian mining companies, I refer readers to the Toronto-based Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

Yangon railway workers' association formed

According to an RFA report over 60 railway workers in Yangon have formed an association under the Myanmar labour union law.  The workers were assisted in this by members of the 88 Generation Students.
ရန္ကုန္တုိင္း အင္းစိန္ မီးရထားစက္ေခါင္း စက္ရံု အလုပ္သမား (၆၀) ေက်ာ္ စုေပါင္းျပီး မီးရထားအေျခခံ အလုပ္သမား အဖြဲ႔အစည္းကုိ ဒီကေန႔ စတင္ ဖြဲ႔စည္းလုိက္ပါတယ္။
ဒီအဖြဲ႔အစည္းဟာ ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံမွာ အလုပ္သမားသမဂၢေတြ တရား၀င္ ဖြဲ႔စည္းထူေထာင္ခြင့္ ရရွိျပီးေနာက္ပုိင္း အစိုးရဝန္ထမ္း အလုပ္သမားေတြ ကုိယ္တိုင္ ပထမဆံုး ထူေထာင္လိုက္တဲ့ အဖြဲ႔အစည္းတစ္ခုလည္း ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။

Saturday, 14 July 2012

ILO to give Yangon training

According to MRTW, the ILO will conduct a training in Yangon on international legal norms for the recently formed 15-person employer-employee conflict resolution tribunal.
အလုပ္သမား ေရးရာ ဆက္ဆံေရး ဦးစီး ဌာနမွ တာ၀န္ရွိသူ တစ္ဦးရဲ႕ ေျပာျပခ်က္ အရ အလုပ္သမားနဲ႔ အလုပ္ရွင္မ်ား ပဋိပကၡ ျဖစ္မႈေတြကို  ေျဖရွင္း ေပးတဲ့ ခံုသမာဓိ အဖြဲ႔ကို ILO မွ နည္းပညာ အရာရွိခ်ဳပ္ တစ္ဦးက ႏုိင္ငံတကာ စံႏႈန္း ဥပေဒ ေတြကို လာေရာက္ သင္ၾကား ေပးဖုိ႔ ရွိတယ္လုိ႔ သိရပါတယ္။ အခုလို သင္ၾကား ေပးရာမွာ ILO မွ တာ၀န္ရွိသူက အလုပ္သမား ေတြနဲ႔ ပတ္သက္တဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ စံႏႈန္း ဥပေဒ အေၾကာင္းနဲ႔ အလုပ္ရွင္၊ အလုပ္သမား ပဋိပကၡေတြ ေျဖရွင္းမႈ အေတြ႕အႀကံဳ အစရွိတာ ေတြကို ပို႔ခ်ေပး သြားမွာ ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Workers strike in Three Pagodas Pass

According to an article in the Phophaw News Association, 10 July 2012
ရရွိသင့္ေသာ အခြင့္အေရးမ်ား နစ္နာ ဆံုးရွဳံး မွဳမ်ား အတြက္ ကရင္ျပည္နယ္ ၾကာအင္းဆိပ္ႀကီးၿမိဳ႔နယ္ ဘုရားသံုးဆူၿမိဳ႔မွ ျမန္မာ အလုပ္သမား (၈၀) ေက်ာ္တို႔၏ ေတာင္းဆိုမွဳတြင္ ျမန္မာ အာဏာပိုင္ တို႔၏ အကူအညီ မရခဲ့ဟု ဆႏၵျပခဲ့ေသာ စက္ရံု အလုပ္သမား တဦးက ဆိုပါသည္။

“က်ေနာ္ ကေတာ့ ဘုရားသံုးဆူၿမိဳ႔ ထိုင္းႏိုင္ငံဖက္ျခမ္းက PIA Trading အမ်ဳိးသမီး၀တ္ ေဘာ္လီခ်ဳပ္ စက္ရုံက အလုပ္ သမား တဦးပါ။ အခုျဖစ္ေနတဲ့ျပသနာက စက္ရံုက ႀကိဳတင္ အသိေပးေသာ္လည္း ပိတ္လိုက္တဲ့ အခါမွာေတာ့ အလုပ္ သမားေတြအတြက္ နစ္နာေၾကးေတြ မေပးခဲ့ဘူး။ ဒါေၾကာင့္ ျပီးခဲ့တဲ့ ဇူလိုင္လ (၄) ရက္ေန႔ ကတည္းက က်ေနာ္တို႔ အလုပ္သမားေတြ ဆႏၵျပခဲ့တာပါ။

Sunday, 8 July 2012

MAP statement on new migrant travel restrictions

The MAP Foundation has released the following statement on the travel restrictions recently imposed on passport-holding migrants in Mae Sot, Thailand who are not yet registered for work elsewhere in Thailand.
Employers in Tak have managed to persuade the authorities to slap travel restrictions on all migrants registered to work in five border provinces. Even migrants who are holding Temporary Passports which should allow migrants to travel freely throughout the country are now facing restrictions.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Thailand's plan to deport pregnant migrants

An article in the local Phuket Wan provides a critical look at the Thai government's recent plan to deport migrant workers who become pregnant.
PHUKET: A plan by the Thai government to combat human trafficking raises the nightmare scenario of pregnant women being trucked or bussed off Phuket once their bulging tummies are discovered... Phuket's rainbow of residents these days extends from the international rich, in their seaside mansions, to the exceedingly poor, in their tumbling shanties. With a few worthy exceptions, the well-off go about their life on Phuket as though the world is a wonderful place, seldom appearing to shed too much concern for their poorest neighbors. Yet modern, urban Phuket is being built on the backs of these people. Many of the villas occupied by the carefree Phuket wealthy are also their handiwork. It's perhaps time for Phuket's well-heeled to spare a thought about the future of the Burmese women they see passing their BMWs and Mercs, pressed tight into trucks.

See also, "Thai pregnant workers plan slammed," Bangkok Post, 7 July 2012.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Workers can't live without owners?

The Myanmar Times continues its reporting of the Myanmar strike wave with this recent article:
OVER the past two months – since employees at the Tai Yi shoe factory in Hlaing Tharyar township stopped work on May 2 – a strike has occurred every few days in Yangon’s industrial zones. A few have captured a lot of attention, and many have passed with little notice, the workers’ demands quickly resolved. For most of the thousands of workers who have stopped work, their main complaint is their extremely low basic salary – usually about K8000 a month. But there are other, less well-known reasons for the strikes, namely the environment inside the factory.
We also get some insight into the politics of certain labour activists, like
Ko Ko Gyi of the 88 Generation Students; these are politics that I do not share:
“Worker unions are needed now more than ever. And also owners need to be smarter. They need to understand that worker unions are not there to oppose the owners. They are just a group that will negotiate to solve the problems between the owners and workers. And us activists will help them to get a better future. “Problems between workers and owners are like fights between family members. Regardless of how the family members are discordant, they have to meet each other. Owners and workers are the same too. Owners can’t run their business without workers and workers can’t live without owners. We are just advisers,” he added. 

Will we seen an exodus of Myanmar workers any time soon?

There has been a recent series of articles highlighting a potential large-scale return of migrant workers back to Myanmar. Let's hope that this "crisis" will strengthen the hand of migrant workers in their struggles for better wages and working conditions.

Mizzima, "Thai employers fear exodus of Burmese migrants," 29 June, 2012

Bangkok Post, "exodus of migrant workers a worry," 28 June, 2012