Friday, 31 May 2013

MIgrant workers strike in Chiang Mai

DVB provides a video report about a 30 May 2013 strike involving over 100 Myanmar migrant construction workers in Chiang Mai over their employers violation of their employment contract.  Some photos of the strike are available here.

The Economist: Myanmar's remittances

The Economist reports on remittances from Myanmar migrants:
NO ONE has bothered to count how many people live in Myanmar since 1983 (when it was still Burma). No surprise then that no one has any clear idea how many people left the country during its 50 years under military rule. The men in green certainly did a savage job of mismanaging the economy though, and an untold number of their countrymen fled for want of opportunities at home. In 2009 the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated that 10% of Myanmar’s population, then estimated to be 50m to 55m people, were living abroad.
The IOM’s estimate is roughly in line with a more recent one which suggests that there are between 2m and 4m Burmese workers in Thailand, perhaps another half-million in Malaysia, more than 100,000 in Singapore, a few thousand in Japan and South Korea, and then a totally unknown number in India and China.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

New report on trafficking in Thailand's fishing industry

The Environmental Justice Foundation released a new report on 29 May 2013 titled Sold to the Sea about trafficking, exploitation and other abuses against migrants in Thailand's fishing industry.

The report is available here.

Some news accounts of the report are available here, here and here.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

IPS: Hard Day’s Work Is Greater Remittance Cost for Burmese

Inter Press Service reports on remittances issues for Myanmar migrants in Thailand (via the Jakarta Globe):
Nangnyi Foung reaches into the dryer, pulls out another pair of pants and places it on the ironing board.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Mizzima: Prisoners of Mae Sot

My op/ed piece on some recent problems with the migrant registration process in Mae Sot is available on Mizzima.

The Irrawaddy: Burmese Migrant Workers’ Group Receives International Award

The Irrawaddy reports:
A Burmese migrant labor activist group has been honored with the International Labor Rights Award for its contribution to the labor rights movement and exposing work-related rights violations.

The International Labor Rights Forum on Wednesday jointly honored the Burmese Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), which is based in Bangkok, and Thailand’s State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) for their “groundbreaking” work in defending migrant workers in Thailand.

Monday, 20 May 2013

DVB: Burmese embassy to issue migrant children with passports

DVB reports:

The Burmese embassy in Thailand will begin issuing temporary passports for children of registered migrant workers on Thursday, according to a government spokesperson.

Eleven News: Myanmar’s Oversea Employment Agencies Federation opens office in Thailand

Eleven News reports:
The Federation of Oversea Employment Agencies (Myanmar) has opened its first branch office in Bangkok to help Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand and to protect their labour rights, the federation chairman Min Hlaing said.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

DVB: Illegal Burmese migrants arrested in western Thailand

DVB reports on the arrest of undocumented migrants being smuggled via the Mae Sot area:

Over 100 Burmese nationals were arrested in western Thailand on Sunday, after being lured across the border by a trafficker who promised them jobs in the Kingdom, according to local news reports.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

AFP: Myanmar's 'old man's land' seeks new lease of life

AFP (via The Bangkok Post) reports on the absence of the working-age generation from rural areas of Mon State, who have left home to work abroad:
They call it "Old Man's Land" -- ravaged by conflict and economic deprivation, Myanmar's southeast Mon state is a place bereft of its young, who have flooded overseas in search of work.

Weekly Eleven: Myanmar workers demand 8 working hours and $100 monthly salary

Weekly Eleven reports on a workers' strike:
Myanmar's local workers from a Chinese-named factory in Yangon Region staged a peaceful protest on May 11 against its owner demanding an increase of their salary to 85000 kyats (about $100) a month and 8 working hours a day.

RFA: ထုိင္းႏိုင္ငံကို လူပြဲစားနဲ႔ တရားမ၀င္ေရာက္လာတဲ့ ျမန္မာ ၈၀ ေက်ာ္ကို ေနရပ္ျပန္ပို

RFA reports  on recent arrests of undocumented workers near Mae Sot being smuggled to Bangkok:

ထုိင္းႏိုင္ငံကို တရားမဝင္ဝင္ေရာက္လာတဲ့ ျမန္မာနုိင္ငံသား ၈၀ ေက်ာ္ကို ထုိင္းအာဏာပိုင္ေတြက တာ့ခရိုင္မဲေဆာက္ၿမိဳ႕မွာ တနဂၤေႏြြေန႔က ဖမ္းဆီးလိုက္ေၾကာင္း သိရပါတယ္။

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Nation: KBank expands remittance service to Myanmar

The Nation reports:
Kasikornbank is expanding the channels available for its workers' remittance service, aiming to double the bank's fund-transfer service network in Myanmar.

The Irrawaddy: Burma Govt Suspends 12 Migrant Worker Agencies

The Irrawaddy reports:
Burma’s Ministry of Labor has suspended 12 recruitment agencies because of alleged corruption and exploitation of migrant workers, The Myanmar Times reports. The ministry informed the agencies on April 25 that they were under investigation and should cease sending workers to Thailand. There were no further details on the extent of the investigation. Ma Khin Way, an office manager for one of the suspended agencies, Danar Trading Co Ltd, said she was confident that her firm would be allowed to resume operations soon. More than 2 million Burmese are working abroad. Many are sent by recruitment agencies, a largely unregulated sector that has been accused of exploiting and trafficking workers.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Reuters: Thai defamation laws allegedly used to muzzle activists and critics

Reuters reports on the Andy Hall case:
For the past decade, British labour activist Andy Hall has carved out a reputation for exposing the abuse and exploitation of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.
Now his latest findings, published in January for a Finnish NGO, have pitted him against a businessman from a powerful political family.

First Myanmar Labour Organisations Conference

On 30 April 2013, the first Labour Organisations Conference was held in Myanmar organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the German NGO Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Summarising the event, the ILO reports:
One year after Myanmar passed its Labour Organization Law, delegates from some 500 labour organizations gathered in an unprecedented conference to hone their skills in labour organization, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, among other areas of crucial importance to the country's workers... The ILO has established the Freedom of Association project to help in the implementation of the Labour Organization Law. The project is funded by the US State Department and provides education and training to workers, businesses and government officials.
More interestingly was a controversy that developed when some Myanmar unions suggested that certain groups and individuals had been planted at the conference in order to skew the vote for Myanmar's delegate to the June 2013 ILO conference in Geneva.  The Myanmar Times reports:
The first day of the largest labour conference in Myanmar in more than 50 years was marred by conflict between participants over the selection of a delegate for an international meeting in Geneva... Some 88 Generation members and labour delegates said they doubted whether all of the participants were from registered labour organisations, suggesting some may have been planted to affect the outcome of the vote for a Myanmar delegate to send to the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in June. “I have doubts about voting for a delegate to go to Geneva. How can we vote if we don’t even know the other people sitting here,” one labour delegate said at the meeting. Mr Ross Wilson, the chief technical adviser for the ILO Freedom of Association Program in Yangon, attempted to resolve the dispute after the lunch break. One representative from a Myanmar non-government organisation, who asked not to be named, said they believed some groups were trying to derail the conference. “I think this kind of conference has come early for Myanmar, at a time when people are not yet used to labour organisations. Some political groups can take advantage of the situation,” she said.
An RFA video of the event shows FTUB's U Maung Maung walk out in anger along with a group of his supporters in response to the dispute.  It appears that some groups and labour activists were suggesting that FTUB had brought in additional people in order to skew the vote to get U Maung Muang elected as the Myanmar representative for the coming ILO conference.  In the video U Maung Maung states that he will not attend the conference because it "has no rules".  However, RFA reports that U Maung Maung nonetheless came back to attend the following day.  The other labour delegates in the video state that FTUB "has no position in Myanmar."

May Day in Mae Sot, Thailand

The Irrawaddy reports on May Day events in Mae Sot, and in particular the march and football tournament organised by the employers and the Thai government! (Albert Parsons must be rolling in his grave.)

ထိုင္းအလုပ္ရွင္ေတြနဲ႔ ထိုင္းအလုပ္သမားဌာနေတြစုေပါင္းၿပီး ဒီေန႔မွာက်ေရာက္တဲ့(ေမးေဒး) ေန႔အထိမ္းအမွတ္ ေပ်ာ္ပြဲရႊင္ပြဲေတြကို  မဲေဆာက္မွာက်င္းပေပးတာ ေတြ႔ရပါတယ္။

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Review: Burmese refugees flock to Iowa meatpacking town

The Review reports:
Like other waves of immigrants, they were drawn to this poor, sparsely populated region of southeastern Iowa by the promise of jobs, good schools and welcoming people... The refugees needed a paycheck -- and fast. Cuts in federal benefits for refugees mean there is little safety net in the way of food, medical or housing assistance. Tyson pays workers at least $13 per hour and provides health insurance. "They can make more in one week at Tyson Fresh Meats than they would make in one year back home," Rustad said. In Columbus Junction, Mickelson said, the first five Burmese workers were hired as part of a recruitment effort in Illinois and later encouraged friends and relatives to apply. 

NNT: Myanmar workers in Thailand participate in Labor Day events

National News Bureau of Thailand reports:
Myanmar migrant workers participated in Wednesday’s Labor Day activities in provinces across the country, while renewing calls for improved work conditions and rights for laborers. Over 1,000 Myanmar workers attended activities hosted by Mae Sot Municipality in Tak province. They took part in a colorful parade through the city before gathering at the King Naresuan Stadium to compete in sporting events organized to boost solidarity among the workers. In Ranong, Myanmar labor activists called for improvement of basic labor rights, which include health care, safety provisions and other benefits. They also stressed that a number of Thai employers in smaller provinces continued to avoid paying workers the new daily wage of 300 baht. The activist network noted that as Myanmar’s new government has taken measures to open up the country's borders, a large number of Myanmar laborers who migrated to Thailand are contemplating relocation to their native country.

Mizzima: Thai-Myanmar disputed islands shelter illegal workers

Mizzima reports:
Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has blamed "dishonest and bad" Thais for sparking Myanmar's territorial claim over three small islands in the overlapping marine area between the countries. He said Thai gangs were hiding illegal workers on the islands, which had given rise to new problems over territory claims. Myanmar representatives from the Thailand-Myanmar Township Border Committee (TBC) on Saturday said Nay Pyi Taw has prohibited Thais from entering Koh Lam, Koh Khan and Koh Khinok. Myanmar claims the islands are inside its territory based on a map drawn by Britain in 1939. Gen. Prayuth said the conflict over the islands is a long-standing one. The countries had agreed at the TBC that neither side would make use of the islands. But problems have reignited after Thai gangs hid illegal workers there. "I don't want to blame anyone else but our own people. They are unpatriotic and do not consider their nation but their own vested interests," Gen. Prayuth said. Some people from Myanmar were also involved, he added. He said the Thai and Myanmar sides have discussed the problem and agreed to drive the occupants from the islands.