Monday, 15 August 2016

NLD's economic "blueprint" and income inquality in Myanmar

"The increasing polarity in this country needs to be tackled immediately, especially between the rich and poor, as the gap between them has been growing. If it's not tackled, it could derail our long-term  quest for democracy," said Maung Maung Lay.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Gov responses to allegations of "legal human trafficking"

Migrant rights activists who accused the government of operating a “legal” human trafficking pipeline must face punishment for speaking out of line, Thai and Myanmar labour officials have said. The two rights groups, the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT) and the Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar workers (AAC), last week compared the formal, sanctioned channels for sending Myanmar labourers overseas via memoranda of understanding to exploitative human smuggling rings.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Migrant labour MoU as “legal human-trafficking”

Thailand and Myanmar must agree on a migrant worker system that does not functionally result in “legal human-trafficking”, activists said at a press conference last week.

The remark ignited a scuffle with owners of overseas employment agencies who disputed allegations that their business model is barely a cut above black-market human smugglers’.

Privatisation and its discontents

Workers from an agriculture machinery factory at 9 Mile in Yangon Region staged a protest against the Young Investment Group Industry Co Ltd (YIG) yesterday morning, claiming the company had fired nearly all of its employees without cause.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Labour law reform in "democractic" Myanmar

The government has largely put labour reform on the backburner at a time when worker rights advocates say there’s an urgent need to improve dispute settlement procedures. THE first crackdown on protesting workers under the National League for Democracy government occurred less than two months after it assumed power.

Private funding for industrial zone infrastructure?

Yangon Region government is to call on private industry to fund an upgrade of Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone to serve as a pilot project for the nation... “The government wants to upgrade industrial zones in Yangon, starting in Hlaing Tharyar as a pilot project,”... He believes the government intends to put the development plan out to tender, inviting private companies to develop the necessary infrastructure.“

Monday, 1 August 2016

Official position on Thailand's migrant crackdown

"Department head Mr Arak Prommanee urged employers to bring their employees to register before the expiry of the deadline, warning that, after that, labour inspectors will start checking work places to find out if any of them are harbouring illegal workers. Employers will face a maximum fine of 100,000 for having one illegal migrant worker and illegal migrant workers will face a maximum jailterm of five years and/or a fine of between 2,000-100,000 baht."
"Over one million foreign migrant workers are expected to register with Labour Ministry," Pattaya Mail

Another reactionary editorial on migrant labour in Thailand

A reactionary editorial, useful only as a point of reference, blaming migrants and calling for tighter restrictions and the mass expulsion of those lacking documentation:
"...there are plenty of non-registered or illegal migrant workers out there. What complicates matters is the Thai government's relaxation of the country's labour regulations, which started in 2009 to allow migrant workers who previously entered Thailand illegally to go through the registration process... the dearth of limitations on the numbers of migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar and the lack of clarity about job classifications allowed for migrant workers could undermine the management... The government should end the relaxation of Thai labour regulations for illegal migrant workers... Thailand should send back existing illegal migrant workers to their countries."
"End Thailand's relaxed labour laws," Bangkok Post, 27 July 2016

On Thailand's migrant "pink card" crackdown

"With the deadline to register for temporary work permits swiftly approaching, migrant workers in Thailand say they are being subjected to a rash of police raids.  Undocumented workers from Myanmar – as well as Laos and Cambodia – have been told they must register for the work permits by July 29, or face deportation. The pink cards allow the workers a two-year reprieve, a window during which their home countries are tasked with verifying nationality and providing longer-term documents, such as passports.  The scheme has been favoured by Thailand’s military junta, and was first rolled out in 2014 in a stated effort to curb human trafficking. But the current iteration differs by requiring Myanmar nationals with temporary passports set to expire to also register.  Workers dislike the program as it leaves them vulnerable to arrest or, more frequently, police round-ups where they are forced to pay a bribe. 

Myanmar workers protest selection of Labour Arbitration Tribunal members

"Workers vow to mobilise 1,000 supporters in a protest on July 24, where they will voice dissatisfaction over the selection process of a tribunal council's members. “We are going to protest on July 24 with 1,000 people in front of (Yangon) City Hall,” said a factory worker Hla Hla. Workers' groups hosted a press conference on July 20, fuming about the lack of transparency of the selection process. On July 8, employee representatives were chosen to the tribunal council. However, half of them represented the Federation of Labour Unions [CTUM?], which was the only workers' group invited to the selection by the Ministry of Labour. “There are thousands of labour groups in Myanmar. However, they did not invite all groups and only announced the selection plan through Sky Net and newspapers. This did not reach all employees,” said Aung Thu, a labour affairs leader. Aside from the protest, the groups plan to file their complaints to the government, rights groups and political parties. Naw Aung from the Myanmar Industrial and Commercial Federation also criticised the voting system.
"Labour tribunal under fire over representatives," Eleven Media, 22 July 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

More on the repression of workers in "democratic" Myanmar

Sagaing workers, facing trial for their protest march to the capital, will be sentenced to a month in prison or a K5000 fine after being held in contempt of court yesterday. The workers irritated court staffers by refusing to take the proceedings seriously and instead staging civil disobedience by yelling out and singing during four straight hearings.

(yet another) Thai migrant registration deadline

The Thai Labor Ministry yesterday said it would refuse to extend the July 29 deadline for migrant workers to register themselves, stating they will arrest workers who have not registered from next month.

Monday, 11 July 2016

On the regulation and repression/extortion of migrants in Thailand

"The migrant workers said these stickers allow them to sell stuff on the street without fear of official intervention as bribes have been paid but so far the identity of the person or persons who issued them is unknown."
"Bangkok police chief vows to punish five station heads if graft stickers surface in their responsible areas," Pattaya Mail, 31 May 2016
"IN A BID to counter the problem of illegal migrants, foreign workers without permits face the prospect of mass arrests and large fines... According to Arak, the committee agreed to have a subcommittee study six resolutions:... guidelines to track registered workers' homes and jobs; a new version of work permits that shows jobs and areas of residence; ... The director-general said to crack down on illegal labour, the ministry needs to take aggressive action. Workers without work permits will be jailed and made to pay a large fine. He said the ministry had tried to intensify punishment of employers who hire illegal labourers as well... Currently, there are 39 "skilled" jobs such as cooks, hairdressers, sellers and service sector work that Cambodian, Myanmar and Lao workers cannot do, Arak said. But many illegal workers do these jobs... in response to scandals over illegal workers bribing police to work without papers, police were responsible for the issue and the ministry would not interfere. The ministry could only ask for police and concerned parties to cooperate and crack down on non-registered workers."
"Illegal workers face major crackdown," The Nation, 14 June 2016
"In many cases when workers or employers cannot personally apply for a permit, they hire brokers to secure the necessary documents. But Aung's employer said that could cost as much as Bt10,000 per employee... And even though Aung and his five fellow waiters have no legal work status, their employer has provided a degree of protection by bribing police and other officials. "Currently there are eight police and other authority offices that take bribes from me," he said. "Each one takes at least Bt500 per month per head, making me pay about Bt20,000 in total. And I have no choice but to pay." Millions of migrants from Myanmar work... in an even more complex situation if they work as vendors.... Mu said three different groups of police have told her to pay bribes of Bt3,000 per month after an initial "fine" of Bt25,000 in exchange for "job security". "Dreams of a migrant worker to have a good life here is far from the truth," she said. Mu earns about Bt300 a day from the stall. She has to pay the police bribes, rent for her stall and support her two schoolchildren. That prevents her from saving anything or sending funds back to her family... The government tackles the problem with short-term crackdowns."
 "Many Myanmar migrants caught in an illegal limbo," The Nation, 20 June 2016

More on the spatial fix to Myanmar

"Chinese garment factories are interested in investing in Myanmar due to the country’s cheap labour and market potential. As... China’s basic wages have been rising, textile proprietors are flocking to Southeast Asian countries, where wages are relatively cheap... Myanmar’s garment industry began blooming in 2014 and earned $1.5 billion from exports. More than 230,000 workers were involved in the industry as of 2015. Foreign investment into the industry is also rising; 26.5 per cent of Myanmar’s total FDI went into garment industry in 2013, followed by 27.4 per cent in 2014 and 29 per cent in 2015. The industry runs on a piecework basis. Myanmar’s garment exports primarily go to Japan, the EU and South Korea." 
"China eyes Myanmar garment industry: Hong Kong trade report," Eleven Media, 28 June 2016

Police repression of workers' struggles in "democratic" Myanmar

"Police have used force to crack down on the worker protest march from Sagaing’s Myanmar Veneer Plywood Private Limited (MVPPL) on May 18. The protesters were awaiting the arrival of Nay Pyi Taw’s council chairman Dr Myo Aung at the entrance of Tatkon when a disagreement broke out with the police... According to Nay Pyi Taw police superintendent Ko Ko Aung: “We have already made it clear that this protest is an illegal gathering under Sections 127 and 128 of the penal code. It has no legal permission. The council chairman was waiting in Tatkon to negotiate with the protest leaders but they rejected the offer and no negotiations worked. They then attempted to go past the blockade so we took action. “There are a couple of protesters that incited and instigated the action. They will be investigated and charged.” ... Protesters claimed an unnecessary amount of force was used. “The police beat and arrested us. People in civilian clothing also joined in to beat us. Women were also beaten. A girl might die,” said a detained protester from one of the police vans... “We were brutally beaten and arrested under the administration of a civilian government that we voted for. Should this happen? Is this fair?” shouted protest leader Khine Min from inside a police vehicle."
"Police break worker protest," Eleven Media, 19 May 2016
"Around 50 factory workers and activists involved in a protest march in Myanmar... have been charged with rioting... The protesters had been blocked by police as they tried to march into the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on Wednesday, resulting in scuffles. They were demanding union recognition and for fired workers to be re-hired. The new government has been discussing amending military-era laws allowing police to clamp down on such protests."
"Myanmar charges 50 with rioting after protest march," BBC, 20 May 2016
"They are being charged under Articles 143 and 145, 147 and 505(b) ... for joining in or continuing an unlawful assembly and rioting,” said Colonel Ko Ko Aung of the Naypyidaw police told RFA’s Myanmar Service. The first three articles pertain to participating in an unlawful assembly, refusing to obey police and causing disorder, while Article 505(b) of the penal code pertains to disturbing public order... The current law passed in 2012 under the previous military-backed government requires those planning demonstrations to obtain permission from local authorities five days in advance and to provide details about their planned activities."
"Myanmar Police Charge Workers Involved in Labor Rights Protest," RFA, 20 May 2016

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Mizzima: Suu Kyi says government plans to take care of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand

On the Myanmar government's involvement with migrant nationals in Thailand:
Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi said the Government has plans to take care of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand... Although she did not reveal details of the plan, she said the Myanmar government had plans to take care of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand. The Thai Foreign Minister Pramudwinai said, “Children of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand get schooling in Thailand. And Myanmar workers can enjoy the right to receive medical treatment like Thai workers. We will work in order that Myanmar workers have equal rights. Myanmar also has a duty to address some matters related to Myanmar workers in Thailand.” ... the Thai Foreign Minister said 1.59 million Myanmar migrant workers have been registered legally in Thailand. Thailand’s Bangkok Post reported that according to Thanit Sorat, founder and former secretary-general of the Thai Myanmar Business Forum, about 1.6 million documented Myanmar migrants now work in Thailand, while a further 1.6 million are unregistered.
"Suu Kyi says government plans to take care of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand," Mizzima, 10 May 2016

Thursday, 5 May 2016

On the much-drawn-out negotiations of migrant registration in Thailand

Are they really still negotiating over regularising migration to Thailand? This sounds like the MoU system that pre-dates the coup by at least 5 years.
Thai and Myanmar labour ministers have agreed to proceed with a labour cooperation plan to import migrant workers through a government-to-government agreement, says a senior ministry official.
"Minister settles worker import plan with Myanmar," Bangkok Post, 5 May 2016

Comparing Myanmar wages internationallly

International companies are pouring into [Myanmar], eager to take advantage of the extraordinarily cheap labour costs (only Djibouti and Bangladesh offer lower labour costs than the 3,600 kyat [Dh11.39] daily minimum wage introduced last year). 
"Myanmar’s Catch 22: why Aung San Suu Kyi faces the task of a lifetime," The Nation, 4 May 2016

The reality of migrant wages in Mae Sot

According to Win Zaw Oo, a Mae Sot-based migrant: "Even though the Thai government has officially set the minimum wage in Tak province area at 300 baht [a day], not more than 10% of migrant workers get that amount."

And according to U Moe Kyo, director of JACBA: "Even though [Thai] government has considered increasing the minimum wage to 300 baht all over Thailand, Mae Sot and some other districts still pay a minimum wage under 200 baht."
"International Workers Day Raises Concerns about Equality, Rights and Pay For Burmese Workers," Karen News, 3 May 2016

Contesting Myanmar's minimum wage

The current minimum wage in Myanmar is 3,600 kyat/day.  The MWUN calls for an increase to 5,600 kyat/day.
The Myanmar Workers Union Network yesterday called on the new government to enact a minimum wage of Ks 5,600 at a ceremony marking International Workers’ Day in Hlaingthaya Township, Yangon. The ceremony was attended by MPs from the National League for Democracy, members of labour unions and farmers unions, officials from political organisations and around 500 workers.
"Workers Union Network calls for daily minimum wage of Ks 5,600," Eleven Media, May 2016

Updated stats on workers unions, federations and confederations in Myanmar

Myanmar saw 1,917 labour organisations at basic level, 105 at township level and 14 at region or state level, seven labour federations and one labour confederation.
"Myanmar to promote, protect labour rights," Business Standard, 2 May 2016

The challenge of debt bondage in Thailand

Migrant workers who fall prey to human traffickers often avoid reporting their cases to Thai authorities for fear of being incarcerated, leaving them unable to earn money to send home or pay back debts to brokers... Migrant workers from Myanmar and also Cambodia commonly borrow money to pay recruitment fees to illegal brokers to be smuggled into Thailand or to registered brokers for the paperwork to go legally... Once they start their jobs, they are often not paid for several months as their salaries are used to pay those debts, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and broker exploitation... agency, recruitment and corruption costs, can cause migrants to rack up debts from $400 up to $1,200 just to get started working in Thailand...
"Fear of incarceration hamper Thai fight against human trafficking: activist," Reuters, 28 April 2016

Will child labour increase in Myanmar?

VOA on a potential increase in child labour:
After 50 years of economic isolation, observers fear that Myanmar children might be forced to work before they can complete schooling in a booming economy... Experts say about twenty percent of children in Myanmar between the ages of 10 and 17 work instead of going to school. They work in factories, tourism and many other businesses. They work in cities and in rural areas... Children younger than age 13 are not permitted to work in shops or factories in Myanmar. If they do work, they may only do so for up to four hours a day. But experts say businesses do not obey the law, and the government does not punish them for ignoring it.

"Economic Growth Could Increase Child Labor in Myanmar," VOA, 5 May 2016

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.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Labelling migrants as a health threat

Labelling migrants as a health threat in Thailand:
Health officials warn that foreign maids and workers could bring leprosy, elephantiasis, etc. The soaring labour migration in the region following the implementation of the Asean Economic Community may increase the risks of people contracting many diseases in Thailand including leprosy, the Disease Control Department has warned... She said illegal migrant workers usually did not undergo blood tests and might sneak into the country with elephantiasis. 
 "Asean worker influx stirs fear of ‘diseases returning’," The Nation, 26 March, 2016.

On Korean firms in Myanmar

Are Korean-owned garment firms in Myanmar an exception, or are they reflective of a broader pattern?
South Korean-owned garment manufacturers in Myanmar are widely flouting labor law, with almost 30 percent of factories failing to observe overtime rules... factories wholly or jointly run by Korean firms regularly violate labor law, including a 16-hour weekly limit on overtime... 62 percent [of interviewed workers] reported not being able to refuse to work hours beyond the legal limit, while 63 percent said they did not make enough money to live comfortably. In addition, 15 percent of workers said they had worked extra hours without compensation. Thirty percent of workers reported receiving payslips in only Korean or English, in violation of the law, while just 22 percent said they could take advantage of their legal entitlement to 30 days of medical leave, according to the report released Friday. Just 67 percent of factories had legally-required emergency exits, a quarter of which were inaccessible... child labor is “prevalent,” but unquantifiable due to reticence among workers fearful underage workers could be fired if they spoke out... South Korean factories employ 37 percent of workers in Myanmar’s garment industry, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association. South Korea was responsible for 7 percent of all foreign investment in the Southeast Asian country in 2015.
"South Korean Firms Abusing Myanmar Workers: Report," The Diplomat, 25 March, 2016

Difficulties of migrant domestic workers in Thailand

On the difficulties migrant domestic workers in Thailand face:
...rights groups say female migrant domestic workers [in Thailand] continue to face abuses behind closed doors. For laborers from Myanmar... life without a proper work permit constrains her daily travel. “I never got any days off. If I wanted to go outside, I had to ask permission. Sometimes I needed to go help my relatives who were sick. I asked for time off and they told me I had to finish my work and could only go for one or two hours and had to come back right away,” she said... Isolation and long hours are common obstacles that domestic workers face in finding the time to seek local support networks for help... Migrant aid worker Pim Saenwee [said,] “It’s hard for us to get connected with the domestic workers because they’re kept in private houses. For outsiders like us, it’s hard to get in, and hard for them to get out. In past, many maids are abused with wages and rights abuse and sexual abuse... [ILO] says more than a quarter of women employed in Asia work more than 48 hours a week... “It’s a gender issue that domestic work is not seen as work because it's something that women do and housewives are not paid to do all the work that they do. So then you bring in somebody from outside to do that work and it's still not considered work and still not protected by labor laws,” [said ILO migrant labor expert Jackie Pollock].
"Domestic Workers from Myanmar Overworked in Thailand," VOA, 22 March, 2016

Monday, 14 March 2016

A south-south spatial fix?: Relocating seafood processing from Thailand to Myanmar

The Nation reports:
A 10-rai site in the Dawei Special Economic Zone's initial phase was reserved for about Bt30 million. As soon as VSI Union Thai is registered, an ice plant will be constructed, to be followed by a processing plant whose output will be going to Thailand as well as Italy and Japan. "In five years, more seafood businesses in Thailand will move here as this is home to most of our workers," he said while inspecting his site last week... given the depletion of marine life in Thailand's seas, he continued sourcing seafood from Myeik and Dawei in the past 15 years... The decision was also made at the time when Thailand's seafood industry is facing some non-tariff measures. The EU's tough requirements for Thailand to comply with the illegal, unreported and unregulated rule result in difficulties in sourcing materials, he said. Now, he sees only the bright side. The abundance of seafood and factory hands is one thing. He also expects to gain a lot from investment privileges offered to businesses in special economic zones as well as the European Union's generalised system of preferences (GSP) offered to labour-intensive industries in Myanmar.
"Thai seafood sector sees bright future in Dawei," The Nation, 9 March 2016.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Blaiming migrants in Thailand for crimes, again

Police in Thailand continue to target migrants on grounds of criminal involvement, but without substantiating evidence.  As the Bangkok Post writes:
More than 200 police, soldiers and local officials raided nine locations on Pattaya’s Koh Larn on Friday... The squad searched for narcotics, took DNA samples from migrant workers, recorded their personal information and registered them... Thai law enforcement officials routinely accused migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos of being behind crimes, particularly of tourists. However, on Koh Larn, the most recent violent attack - a rape of a Chinese woman in September - was committed by two Thai speedboat drivers.
"Military, police sweep Koh Larn for drugs, illegal workers," Bangkok Post, 11 March 2016

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Backpay win for piece-rate migrant factory workers in Thailand

It is indeed significant that migrant piece-rate workers in Thailand have won a backpay claim. But insofar as these workers were employed within the factory for set hours (e.g. 8:00-5:00), this is not unprecedented. Migrant factory workers similarly on piece-rates in Mae Sot have won such claims before, since they can argue that set hours require minimum wage payment under Thai labour law. Truly significant would be a victory for a backpay claim (or, indeed, any labour rights claim) made by piece-rate workers employed outside the factory and without set hours, such as home-based "putting-out workers" in Mae Sot's garment sector.  As Nyan Lynn Aung at the Myanmar Times reports:
A Thai fisheries factory has further capitulated to the demands of its workers and agreed to equally compensate all labourers in a company-wide settlement – a development rights advocates say is virtually unprecedented. The new terms will extend to 200 mostly Myanmar staffers on a “piecemeal” contract who were initially overlooked. At the end of February, the factory agreed to shell out compensation in a rare victory for migrant workers. The workers had been fighting to end a smattering of abuses at the factory, including overcharging for work documents, unpaid overtime and illegal paycheck deductions. The initial settlement deal involved 48 million baht (US$1.3 million) of backpay, divided between 1750 workers, including over 1400 from Myanmar. However, up to 200 workers paid on an output basis said they were not covered in the settlement. Last week the terms were extended, and the “piecemeal” workers were each given 20,000 baht ($566) in backpay.
"Further win for fisheries workers in Thailand," Myanmar Times, 10 March 2016.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Police brutality against workers under an NLD government

Significantly, patterns of police brutality against workers continue in Myanmar under an NLD government. According to Eleven Media ("Victim of police beating transported to Yangon," 9 March, 2016):
"After everything was settled, policemen came again [to the factory in Dawei on 8 March, 2016] with their station chief around 11pm. Four policemen cocked their firearms and were ordered by a police officer to shoot anyone that entered. They then asked Thet Naung and Aung Phyo Lin to step forward because they had bad attitudes. When Thet Naung stood up, around 10 policemen grabbed him, and Thet Naung resisted. The police beat him, and one policeman struck him on the head with a thick rod from the factory. The doctor has said he has a brain hemorrhage and is not likely to survive. Thet Naung’s family was told that neither a surgery in Dawei Hospital nor the plane ride to Yangon can guarantee his life," said a colleague of Thet Naung who witnessed the incident.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Benefits of protecting migrants overlooked: UN

The Myanmar Times on the UN's 2015 Asia-Pacific Migration report:
"The [UN] research shows that 'it is the prevailing economic and policy context which shapes the impact of migration'. The UN argues the region could and should be doing more to promote a streamlined process ensuring everything from fair recruitment practices, to social protections, fair pay and assimilation. Few of the [Southeast Asia] region’s countries have implemented comprehensive, long-term migration policies, however. In this absence, bilateral agreements reign over the migration process, but often fail to provide adequate protection or oversight. Inevitably, unscrupulous brokers and human trafficking fill the vacuum... Instead of seeing migrants as a national security threat or funnelling labourers to destination countries through short-term arrangements that restrict rights and neglect abuses, the report suggests both countries of origin and destination must put better structures in place."
"Benefits of protecting migrants overlooked: UN," Myanmar Times, 8 March 2016

Friday, 4 March 2016

Myanmar-Bangladesh garment manufactures cooperate

Will Myanmar's garment manufacturing develop in the direction of Bangladesh? (I can't help thinking of Rana Plaza.)
A leader of Myanmar garment producers has invited Bangladesh to work together in fighting global business challenges. "Now there are many challenges in the world. TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is coming. Why don’t we work together? We can fight together for US GSP," Khine Khine Nwe Rosaline, Secretary General of Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, said in Dhaka...

Currently, the country has around 400 garment factories that employ between 350,000 and 400,000 workers. Bangladesh’s nearly 3,500 factories employ about 4 million workers. Myanmar exports $1.8 billion and has set a $10-billion-mark target for the next 10 years, while Bangladesh eyes doubling current exports to $50 billion by 2020. But neither country enjoys the GSP privilege in the US market...

She said Bangladesh was "so much advanced" in the garment industry that “we want to learn the growth story”. She said six months back they sent a delegation to visit Bangladesh’s factories and learn about business operations. “We’ll send another delegation shortly,” she said.
"Myanmar business leader invites Bangladesh to fight together for US GSP,", 4 March 2016