Choe 1Jonghyun ChoeTSEA (3)3 December, 2010 Miserable Burmese workers in Thailand A 24 year old man from Yangon said that he worked from 8am to 9pm, sometimes untilmidnight, with no extra payment. He also said 30 Burmese migrant workers lived in a hall, about30 feet by 10 feet, sleeping side by side. He earns only 3000 baht per month (Thailand). Today, there are over 600,000 migrant workers from Burma who live legally in Thailand,who have immigrated in order to have better treatments and lifestyles. As Thailand has becomemore industrialized, many Thais are unwilling to have dirty, dangerous, and demanding jobs suchas working in construction field (Thailand). These occupations have been replaced by Burmesemigrant workers, who are suffering from abuse of human rights and unfair treatment from theiremployers and government authorities. Although the Thai government has taken some action tohelp the Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, not only the Thai government is not takingappropriate action towards Burmese workers in Thailand such as giving out work permits, butalso Burmese workers in Thailand are treated unfairly and are suffering from abuse of theirhuman rights. Supporters of the Thai government state that even though many blame the governmentfor the lack of action taken to help Burmese migrant workers, the government is takingeffective actions for the Burmese workers in order to improve their standard of living. Thegovernment’s efforts are significant in the Northern Province of Tak in Thailand where theBurmese Migrant Workers Education Committee (BMWEC), made by the Thai ministry of
Choe 2education has provided 6221 children with schooling in 45 schools in order to aid the BurmeseMigrant Workers and their children who would have had harsh time getting educated becauseof financial and legal issues (Main Library Education). Moreover, the Thai government’s tries tohelp the Burmese migrant workers in Thailand by giving them out more work permits thanbefore and making the registration process less difficult. According to the governmentdocument, “alien workers can change employers and still legally remain in Thailand for oneyear. Once an alien worker is registered, the Government confers the same rights in the controlof labour as are granted to Thai workers” (Thailand). 1.3 million migrant workers were given thetemporary work permits due to Thai government’s helpful action of improving migrant workers’conditions (Thailand). In addition, Thai government has been providing the public health systemfor Burmese migrant workers, whereby people can receive medical care for 30 baht per visit(Thailand). This 30 baht scheme helps Burmese migrant workers in Thailand since people of anyage can receive any public health service facility for 30 baht which is beneficent financially andfor health. Therefore, by building schools, giving out work permits, and providing public healthcare, the Thai government is doing its best to improve the lives of Burmese migrant workers inThailand. Contrastingly, although the Thai government has taken some positive actions to helpthe Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, it isn’t enough. The efforts made by Thai governmenthave affected the Burmese migrant workers in a negative way rather than in a positive way.Burmese migrant workers find it difficult to participate in the education system, because theaccess to education for migrant children is impeded by extra costs associated with education,for example, school uniforms and text books, availability of suitable education and language of
Choe 3instruction (Burmese Migrant Children). Also the language barrier and financial struggles forBurmese migrants makes it hard for their children to get an education (Burmese MigrantChildren). As for the work permits, many Burmese migrant workers have confusion because ofthe complexities of the registration process and the rights to which they would be permitted tounder this new system (Thailand). Not only this, Burmese workers did not have enough moneyto register. A 56 year old Shan woman said, “I heard about the registration- I would like to dothis but I have no money, barely enough to eat. I can’t decide whether to stay here or not. Evenif we want to return to Burma we have no money. But staying on- we can’t see any future”(Thailand). Burmese migrant workers are also unhappy about the public health system, becausethey did not believe that they would receive proper medical care, or because they hadexperienced discrimination by Thai public health workers. A 37 year old Kayah womandescribed her husband’s health problems: “My husband has a kidney problem-from heavywork- he went to 30 baht program but it is not as good as private hospital. He was suffering andscreaming. He finally went to a Chinese herbal medical doctor, which costs a lot of money”(Thailand). This case shows how Burmese migrant workers in Thailand suffer from illness anddiseases due to ineffective public health system. Hence, it can be said that the effort put byThai government does not appear very helpful to Burmese migrant workers due to difficultiesof getting education, complex work permits system and poor public health care. Although Burmese migrant workers aren’t very satisfied with the Thai government’saction to help them, many Burmese workers in Thailand think that living in Thailand is betterthan living in Burma. In Burma, people are forced to work and the military sometimes destroyproperties and land (Snodgrass). A 37 year old Mon woman said that she left home because the
Choe 4military destroyed all her 1000 rubber trees and properties, and then lots of other people areforced to work in Burma (Thailand). This proves how Burmese are manipulated and are forcedinto labour day and night by the government. Also Burmese workers are treated harshly by theBurmese government under four decades of military control, which makes Thailand a muchbetter place to live (Cropley). A 35 year old Shan farmer said that he left home because hecould not support his family, and because his brother was shot dead and sister raped and thenkilled by the Burmese troops (Thailand). In addition, one of the Burmese migrant workers saidthat although he has difficulties, it is much better in Thailand because at least there is a jobwhere he can work and earn money (Cropley). Most workers left their home country, Burma,because they do not have any jobs or economic opportunities. A young Mon worker also said, “Ilike Thailand better. If I could be a citizen I would. In Burma it is 24 hours fear, every night Idreamed Misery Number 1, Misery Number 2” (Thailand). He described how the life in Burma isharsh because of the military dictatorship. A lot of migrant workers left Burma for variousreasons: forced labour, control by the military, and lack of job opportunities. Even though it might be correct that working in Thailand is better than in Burma,Burmese migrant workers in Thailand are not treated the same as Thai workers. They have poorworking conditions, longer working hours, and don’t even receive the minimum wage. Theworkers work in poor conditions, where it is unhealthy and unsafe. One of the workers in aknitting factory said that due to hot working site, many women had fainted due to the heat.Also, the workers in factory did not get enough time to rest, which made them tired and sick(Cropley). In addition, Burmese workers work for 14 hours every day not including overtime pay.(Burmese Migrant Worker). A 24 year old man from Yangon said that he worked from 8 am to 9
Choe 5pm without extra payment (Thailand). Burmese workers in Thailand suffer from poor wages,where most workers receive only half of the minimum wage. On average, they are paid 70 bahtper day for working 10 hours, while the minimum wage in Thailand range from 133 baht to 169baht a day (Burmese Migrant Worker). A 35 year man from Yangon said that his salary variesfrom 2,000 to 3,000 baht per month, and it was very hard for him and his wife to earn enough tocover their daily living expenses (Thailand). These unfair treatments towards Burmese workersin Thailand such as poor working conditions, long working hours and receiving less than theminimum wage clearly shows that the Thai government is not doing enough to help the Burmesemigrant workers in Thailand. On the other hand, critics of the Thai government claim that even though some positiveactions are done in order to aid the Burmese migrant workers, the truth is that they are beingabused by the government, police and the employers. When policemen in Ranong beat aBurmese youth to death, people just watched but didn’t help because they were scared of thepolice. One of the eyewitness said that he felt that Burmese people always have to be afraid ofThai police because they are scared of forced deportation (Pichai). Many Burmese workers inThailand are under stress also because of arbitrary arrest by the police. For instance, a 19 yearold Karen worker said that Thai police abuse and discriminate Burmese workers and that even ifthey have work permits, they must give money to the police to avoid worse abuse (BurmeseMigrant Worker). Another example is when a 12 year old girl was stopped by the police and hadno registration card. She had to pay 1,000 baht as a bribe in order to not get arrested (Thailand).Burmese workers are also exploited by their employers, who keep their work permits and treatthem like slaves (Cropley). Yin Ma’s employer took her work permit, which made her an illegalimmigrant. She said that she was scared and was hurt mentally, that she could get deported
Choe 6(Cropley). Phoe Nge was beaten constantly and was killed by his employer who treated him likea slave, and was shot by his employer 7 times simply because the employer’s wife took andinterest of him (Burmese Migrant Worker). These cases of human rights abuse both mentally andphysically show how Burmese workers’ lives in Thailand are miserable due to the Thaigovernment’s lack of helpful action towards them concerning forced deportation, arbitrary arrest,and inhumane treatment by their employers. Although the Thai government has helped Burmese migrant workers in Thailand inseveral ways, it is clear that Burmese workers in Thailand are in plight due to lack of help givenby the Thai government. Additionally, although Burmese workers like Thailand better thanBurma, Burmese migrant workers are treated unfairly compared to local Thai workers and areabused by police and employers. In conclusion, the Thai government should care about theBurmese migrant workers in Thailand more and think of effective methods in order to makethem feel more secure and comfortable. Works Cited
Choe 7"Burmese Migrant Children Missing out on Education." One World South Asia. 16 June, 2009. Web. 26 Nov, 2010."Burmese Migrant Worker Abuse". Verbal. May 31, 2009. Web. Nov 16, 2010.Cropley, Ed. "In a Thai Border Town, Burmese Workers Toil in Penury". Reuters. June 04, 2007. Web. 15 Nov 2010."Education of Burmese outside Burma Education of Migrants and Refugees from Burma." Online Burma Library. 20 Dec. 2008. Web. 26 Nov. 2010.Pichai, Usa. "‘Halt Abuse of Migrant Workers in Thailand’ HRW." Mizzima News. 24 Feb, 2010. Web. 05 Oct, 2010.Snodgrass, Cedric. "Burmese Migrant Workers in Thailand Burma Digest." Burma Digest. 13 June, 2007. Web. 17 Ocvcct, 2010."Thailand: The Plight of Burmese Migrant Workers". Amnesty International. n.d. Web. 10 Nov, 2010.