Monday, 24 June 2013

On migrant health care in Thailand

Two different (and opposing) perspectives on the cost of health care for migrants in Thailand:

Pradit floats idea for a regional health fund, The Nation, 15 June 2013
The large state spending for providing medical services to migrant workers and non-Thais along the Thailand-Myanmar border - in excess of Bt100 million a year - has prompted the Public Health Ministry to seek cooperation from the neighbouring country to set up a regional health fund. Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong said most of the hospitals in the five provinces along the border are having to shoulder the burden of providing healthcare services to migrant workers and non-Thais crossing the border.  Each year, the ministry has to spend more than Bt100 million to provide medical services to migrant workers and non-Thai citizens in five Tak districts along the border.  The government has allowed migrant workers to buy health insurance cards for Bt1,900 each to access medical services from hospitals they are registered with. But it found that only 32,154 workers had bought the insurance. Meanwhile, the ministry has spent more than Bt29 million to provide treatment for them and more than Bt112 million has been spent on non-Thais who have not registered yet.
Migrant workers miss out on healthcare, Myanmar Times, 24 June 2013
Migrant workers in Thailand say a new registration system has made it harder for them to access health care, with more than 1.2 million thought to be without any form of cover.

The Irrawaddy: Thai Company Reinstates Burmese Workers after Protest

The Irrawaddy reports:
Charoen Pokphand (CP), Thailand’s largest food manufacturer, agreed on Monday to reinstate more than 160 Burmese workers it had fired from a seafood-processing plant in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon Province, after workers staged a protest on Sunday.

The Irrawaddy: From Factories to Teashops, Child Labor a ‘Tradition’ in Burma

The Irrawaddy reports about ongoing child labour in Myanmar:
Child servers are a common sight at the average teashop or restaurant in Burma, where often the underage employees are working at the expense of schooling.
Burmese children have long been exploited as part of labor pools both at home and abroad, working for a pittance and receiving few social protections, labor activists and community leaders say.

More on the violence against Myanmar migrants in Malaysia

More articles about the fallout from violence against Myanmar migrants in Malaysia:

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Asia Times Online: Thai shrimp workers battle low pay, abuse

Asia Times Online reports on conditions of migrant workers in Thailand's shrimp industry.
"Sakhon or modern Mahachai, a central Thai province that is home to over 6,000 seafood factories. This fishing and factory town at the mouth of the Tha Chin Klong river, which empties into the Gulf of Thailand, also hosts a huge percentage of the estimated 2.5 million migrant workers who underpin much of Thailand's burgeoning economy. People from Myanmar comprise 82%of these migrants, while the rest come mostly from Laos (8.4%) and Cambodia (9.5%)... smaller processing factories "force workers to work overtime for less pay. The legal minimum wage is 300 baht [US$10] per day and overtime is 56 baht per hour, but they usually pay 50-100 baht overall, and no overtime. Most workers are confined to the compound in these factories. Often, they are locked up and their documents confiscated to prevent them from escaping." This is especially true in smaller factories, which handle the shrimp peeling for larger enterprises, where "shifts start at 4 am and finish late at night," according to U Aung Kyaw. Thailand's seafood industry employs more than 650,000 people. Its exports totaled US$7.3 billion in 2011, with the United States, Japan and Europe importing nearly 70% of the country's seafood."

DVB: Burmese migrants face ‘systemic’ exploitation near border

DVB provides a very good report on the "systematic exploitation" of migrants in Mae Sot, with information on the recent case at the "Champion" (SD Fashion Co. Ltd) case.

“I was fired two days after my child was born,” explains Zaw Lay, gesturing to his infant son cradled in his mother’s arms on the dusty floor. “I begged them not to do it, but it didn’t work.”

DBV: Migrants protest Mae Sot passport company

According to DVB ("Protest against a company doing temporary passports," DVB, 10 June), 45 Myanmar migrants protested outside the office of "Ko Charlie's" passport company (a franchise of NIK Global Manpower company) after they were arrested by the Thai police on their way out of Mae Sot to collect their passports.  Although the passport company had accepted their applications for work permits with Bangkok employers, Mae Sot government authorities subsequently revoked the rights of Mae Sot passports companies to distribute within Mae Sot passports registered with employers outside Mae Sot (see also "Prisoners of Mae Sot," Mizzima, 23 May 2013).

The Irrawaddy: More Than 500 Workers Demand The Release of Detained Furniture Factory Workers

"More Than 500 Workers Demand The Release of Detained Furniture Factory Labour," The Irrawaddy, 11 June 2013.

These workers are protests the recent arrest of some of their fellow workers who had protested in violation of some legal restriction.

The Irrawaddy: Low Wages in Burma Threaten Thailand’s Hold on Japanese Investors

"Low Wages in Burma Threaten Thailand’s Hold on Japanese Investors," Thai Business News, 11 June 2013.
Japan’s industrial investors stayed with Thailand through the army coups, the Bangkok-paralyzing massed Red-Shirt protests, and the mismanaged floods of 2011 that swamped so many Japanese-owned factories. But a huge labor force in Burma ready to work for one-sixth of a Thai wage could be a turning point.
The visit to Burma earlier this week by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s has certainly got the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Bangkok worried. It helps explain why last week during a trade promotion visit to Tokyo she apologized to Japanese business leaders for “any inconvenience caused” to them and their businesses in Thailand in recent years and promised to do better.
“Please be patient with Thailand and we will amend and change the regulations for you and other investors,” Yingluck told a Tokyo conference. “Our government will try to make sure that Thailand will be a good place for investments for you all in the future,” she said in response to calls for changes in Thai rules on investment.
“We will try to work out and implement regulations that will suit the investors, as we want to make Thailand the regional hub,” Yingluck said.

Analysis of Myanmar's garment sector

"After Bangladesh Tragedy, Questions for Burma’s Garment Sector," The Irrawaddy, 11 June 2013.
...Burma’s low-wage workforce of some 33 million people could prove tempting to manufacturers globally. But labor rights groups are urging Burma to get it right when it comes to responsibly managing any new wave of labor-intensive job opportunities...

Reports of Thai police extorting Myanmar migrants

"Thai police accused of extorting labourers," Bangkok Post,
Myanmar’s labour minister has expressed concerns about Thai policemen extorting money from workers from his country regardless of whether or not they hold legal passports. U Maung Myint said he had heard reports that Thai policemen were intentionally arresting even workers holding temporary passports, which are considered legal... He said the workers had to pay between 500 and 1,000 baht each time they were arrested, which Maung Myint said was a form of exploitation and “is not good for the relations between the two countries”... It is estimated that UScopy92 million is generated annually from smuggling about 500,000 migrants from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia into Thailand. 
"Labor Min Accuses Thai Police of Extorting Burmese Migrants," The Irrwaddy, 11 June 2013.
Burmese Labor Minister Maung Myint has accused police in Thailand of extorting money from Burmese workers. In an interview with The Bangkok Post, the Burmese minister said he had heard that migrant workers, including those with legal documentation, are routinely arrested and forced to pay between 500 and 1,000 baht (US $16-32). He added that the practice “is not good for the relations between the two countries” and said that he had raised the issue with his Thai counterpart. According to Maung Myint, 1.5 million of the estimated 2 million Burmese nationals believed to be working in Thailand hold passports.

Follow up on attacks in Malaysia

Reports on follow-up assistance for Myanmar migrants in Malaysia after a series of attacks:

"Eleven Media coordinates donations for Myanmar victims," Eleven Media, 11 June 2013.

"Burmese Tycoons to Help Compatriots in Malaysia," The Irrawaddy, 11 June 2013.

Weekly Eleven: China deports Myanmar migrant workers

On Myanmar migrants in China:

"China deports Myanmar migrant workers," Weekly Eleven, 11 June 2013
Myanmar migrant workers entering China using temporary boarder passes are being deported for over-staying, according to local immigration officials.
“Starting from early months of 2012, over 500 migrant workers have been detained in China deported back to Myanmar," says Min Swe, an immigration officer from Muse border town.
The reasons for arrest and deportation are that migrant workers overstay their given period or attempt to travel beyond the limited area allowed to work. However, some are arrested because employers don't want to pay their wages.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Update on violence against migrants in Malaysia

Update on violence against Myanmar workers in Malaysia:

"Malaysian police arrest dozens of Myanmar workers," Eleven News, 6 June 2013.

"Malaysia Detains Hundreds of Burmese after Reports of Killings," The Irrawaddy, 6 June 2013.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

ILO's Steve Marshal on Myanmar's garment sector

The Myanmar Times provides some analysis ("Brand Myanmar grabs the global spotlight," 3 June 2013) on foreign investment into Myanmar's garment sector:
"...Recent disasters at factories in Bangladesh also have them looking for new countries to source from. “I don’t think we have seen the fallout from Bangladesh yet,” said Steve Marshall, the liaison officer of the International Labour Organisation in Myanmar.
Several global brands have contacted his office as part of their research. “Obviously they are concerned about reputational risk,” he said, adding that they are “doing their due diligence, seeking reports on broader human rights and also specifically on labour market issues”.
Steps are also being taken to prepare the legal basis for the implementation of a Better Factories program here, which will allow ILO monitors to assess factories for compliance with labour laws and ILO conventions. This will provide Western brands some confidence that their images will not be tarnished if they outsource production to Myanmar factories.
“Essentially what everybody has agreed is that at this stage it is too early to introduce a Better Work type scheme here because the legal structures do not exist for it,” Mr Marshall said, citing the absence of a minimum wage law and another covering occupational health and safety as examples.
These laws are, however, expected to be tabled during parliament’s next session, which begins on June 25.
Besides input from the ILO, the labour ministry is also receiving technical assistance on developing labour laws – as well as the garment industry as a whole – from the European Union, trade-related agencies of Western governments seeking bilateral deals with Myanmar, and global buyers, industry representatives and officials said.
The ILO is helping develop a legal framework for the industry, enforcement mechanisms, and a more nimble association for factory owners as well as trade unions. A major goal, according to Mr Marshall, is a labour market that is “cooperative rather than confrontational”.
He’s betting that this can be achieved by ensuring “constructive social dialogue” between factory owners and workers so that the interests of both sides are taken into account in the decision-making process. It is a goal he acknowledges will be tricky to pull off in a country that recently emerged from 50 years of military rule.
“This country has basically been an orders-based environment. Orders were issued, orders were received, orders were passed on and orders were obeyed,” Mr Marshall said. “This applied in all environments, including the workplace.”
An attitude shift is needed among employers as well as workers, he added. “A non-profitable company does not employ staff … so we have make sure that companies can be competitive and maintain profitability, and that is achieved not on the back of low wages but on high productivity, high quality, low waste and less rework.”
Mr Marshall believes that Myanmar’s advantage is that it is starting from scratch, and that this allows the formation of effective unions and industry associations as well as a collaborative approach to creating a garment sector that benefits both. “I actually believe [starting from scratch] creates opportunities, which if we are all clever we could actually use for very useful ends in terms of developing not just the economy but … society,” he said, adding that “what goes on in the workplace is a microcosm of what goes on outside”.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Violence against Myanmar migrants in Malaysia

Reports in recent violence against Myanmar migrants in Malaysia:

"Two Myanmar Buddhists decapitated in Malaysia," Eleven News,

"One Myanmar killed, 2 injured, in Malaysian gang attacks," Mizzima News, June 2013.
"There are more than 400,000 Myanmar migrant workers in Malaysia, according to Tin Latt. About 300,000 are legal workers, he said, while about 40,000 are illegal and about 90,000 are in various processes of refugee status..." 
"Myanmar urges probe into attack on its workers in Malaysia," People's Daily Online, 5 June 2013.

"Fatal Car Wash Stabbing Latest Attack on Burmese in Malaysia," The Irrawaddy, 4 June 2013.

"Four dead as Myanmar religious clashes bleed into KL," The Malaysian Insider, 5 June 2013.

Human smuggling and trafficking

Reports on human smuggling and trafficking into Thailand:

"DSI arrests Myanmar woman on human trafficking and forced labour charges," The Nation, 1 June 2013.
"... Teth Teth Win and her daughter Win Tanda Aong had illegally smuggled at least 15 people from Myanmar and forced them to work at a corn factory located in Tha Ma Kha district of Kanchanaburi province.  Jatuporn said his team had arrested Teth Teth Win and rescued six women from Myanmar who had been detained and tortured while they were staying at a camp for workers located near the factory. They had never received any wages despite being forced to pay between Bt15,000 and Bt20,000 to Teth Teth Win and her daughter for entering Thailand through Mae Sot and travelling to Kanchanaburi.... All those rescued have been sent to a safe house.  Teth Teth Win admitted that she had been involved in smuggling people from Myanmar, but said she did not know that it violated any human trafficking laws."
"Bodies of Myanmar migrants found in Thai sea," Al-Jazeera, 3 June 2013.
"The bodies of at least 12 migrant workers from Myanmar have been found in the sea off Thailand's west coast after their boat sank during bad weather... Ranong is 460 kilometres south of Bangkok and borders Myanmar. Police say it is common for migrant workers to travel by boat to illegally enter Thailand."

Workplace "accidents" among Myanmar migrants in Thailand and Singapore

Reports on recent workplace "accidents" involving Myanmar migrants.