Sunday, 13 January 2013

AsiaOne: Thousands of Myanmar workers trapped in border town

AsiaOne News reports
MYAWADY, Myanmar - Thousands of Myanmar migrant workers are trapped and living in miserable conditions in Myawady, Myanmar's border town with Thailand, sources said.
They said these workers were recruited by illegal job agencies and have no proper work visas. There are more than 40 legal job agencies operating in Myawady but the illegal ones reportedly recruit workers from across Myanmar, according to an official from a newly opened agency in the border town.

"Workers should have been brought here only after Nay Pyi Taw checked their job appointments with Thai factories. But no employment papers are in sight. These workers came here through brokers. They may have to stay here for four or five months until factories employ them upon receipt of their papers," he said.

Some workers survive on meals provided by their recruitment agencies. "We have to beg for a meal. I have been here in Myawady for about five months. I have spent 500,000 kyats (about US$600), which include money paid to the agency and money I owe to others. But I don't know when my job contract will arrive," said Maung Maung from Kyaukphyu Township, who arrived in Myawady through a broker.

Meanwhile, some young women are taking on odd jobs while waiting for their papers.
"Young women come here to work in Thailand. But some of them end up working in Karaoke lounges. There were even some cases in which they were taken by human traffickers," Moe Gyi, a workers' rights activist in Thailand's Mae Sot, told the Eleven Media Group.

Statistics from the Myanmar government show that Thailand has about 2.5 million Myanmar migrant workers; of this number, about 1 million are undocumented.

Myanmar has 49 employment agencies accredited to send workers to Thailand.

Lovely World Service Co. in Myanmar is reportedly planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with Thailand's Job Worker Services Co. Ltd. to officially send 450 workers to Thailand. The workers will be sent to construction sites and will receive a daily wage of 300 baht (US$10) for an eight-hour shift. Under Thailand's social security law, these workers can avail of free medical treatment.

New job recruitment firms are also planning to lessen the delay by coordinating directly with their partner companies in Thailand, according to People's Choice Job Agency in Myawady. However, these agencies reportedly take no responsibility for Thai employers' exploitation of Myanmar workers such as cutting more than 1,000 baht ($33) a month for water and electricity, among others. In addition, they are not provided with healthcare benefits contrary to what the employers promised.

According to Ko Myat from an employment agency, Myanmar workers can contact the embassy in Thailand if their problems are not addressed by agencies.

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