The Than Lwin Times interviewed U Aung Kyaw, Spokesperson of Labour Rights Foundation (LRF) about the difficulties being faced by Myanmar migrant workers.
In Thailand, nearly 2,000 undocumented Myanmar migrant workers have been arrested in nine months from January to September 2023, and the arrests continue daily due to illegal border crossings.
On the other hand, the Myanmar migrant workers who arrived through the MOU system between Thailand and Myanmar and official channels are also unable to find employment in factories, get full wages. They also get sacked.
The Than Lwin Times interviewed U Aung Kyaw, Spokesperson of Labour Rights Foundation (LRF) about the situation about the continued arrests of Myanmar migrant workers, the violation of labor rights of MOU workers and the difficulties faced by migrant workers.
Q: First of all, how are the arrests of Myanmar migrant workers who illegally crossed the border recently?
A: Entering Thailand by crossing the border is normal. There is no peace and stability in a country. Employment opportunities are also not good. The people in Myanmar are trying to get a job for their livelihood by crossing the border. The entry of Myanmar workers has not stopped completely. They continue to enter Thailand as usual. Some people get arrested as Thailand has increased security in border areas for its national security. The number of detained Myanmar workers has declined compared to that in the past.
Q: What about the arrests of undocumented Myanmar workers inside Thailand, not from the border?
A: According to the statement by the Thai government, an average of around 4,000 workers got arrested in 2021 and 2022. That number is as high as now. There have been some arrests. Thailand sometimes conducts surprise checks on undocumented workers. Some people get arrested in the raids. However, I have not seen arrests through thorough checks.
Q: I have heard the violations of labour rights of MOU workers and salary problems. How is that situation?
A: These events are very sorrowful. I don’t need to say anything about the suffering of the workers who came after crossing the border. The employees who have signed the official contract with employers and the Ministry of Labour in Myanmar should not face such a difficult situation. I have already heard this news. This is the result of the lack of accountability and responsibility. This is the weak supervision by the responsible government organizations in the respective countries. I heard that 164 workers from Myanmar were sent to Thailand with official contracts. The agency had to search for jobs because there were no jobs. To tell the truth, as I said before, the workers who signed a contract do not need to find a job in Thailand. They will have to work at the contract factory and fully enjoy the rights at the normal rates fixed by the government. Being unemployed here is totally inappropriate.
Q: There are reports that the wages will be increased for workers in Thailand. What is the situation?
A: This is the nature of a government’s canvassing campaign. They promised themselves that if they became the government, they would increase wages and salaries. They have not announced the exact date yet, but they have said that they will soon raise the minimum daily wage of workers across Thailand to 400 Thai Baht. The workers are still monitoring the situation as the government does not mention the exact dates and months for pay rise.
Q: What about the current wage and commodity prices?
A: Thailand’s economy is fluctuating based on economic and political situations. Commodity prices will skyrocket when salaries increase. Commodity prices are rising as the new government has promised that it will increase salaries soon. In Thailand, there is no government in favor of the people, and there is no political stability. Jobs in Thailand are not good as international buyers reduce their purchase orders. Workers do not get overtime pay anymore. They are facing difficulties as they have to rely only on 8 hours’ daily wage. As commodity prices rise, workers are facing an unbalanced ratio of income and expenditure.
Q: What do you think about the fact that the military council will levy income tax on Myanmar migrant workers?
A: The military government should review what I said before. The workers who have arrived in Thailand are not in a position to receive a large amount of wages and save their excess income. I think the military council levies income taxes at a time when they have to struggle for their survival. The workers are in big trouble as the junta decides to do it without knowing the situations on the ground.
Q: After the new government came to power in Thailand, how do you see the situation of Myanmar migrant workers?
A: It is difficult for Myanmar migrant workers to survive even with the current income. It can be considered that the junta decided to levy income taxes without knowing the actual situation of the workers.
Q: What may be the main difficulties faced by Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand at present?
A: There has been no significant changes after the new government takes office. At present, workers are facing a lot of difficulties due to higher commodity prices, low employment opportunities and low income, which have existed since before the emergence of the new government. This year, Thailand’s economy has not gone down badly, but workers no longer receive regular income. They will get a daily wage of over 350 Baht. The workers who get their daily wage of 500 including overtime payments for two to three hours, are in a position to survive including the remittance of money to their parents and relatives. They are not in a position to remit money to their parents as they no longer get overtime payment. They have to struggle for their survival. The workers feel depressed as they hear the news that the junta levies income taxes. It’s a challenging situation because income and expenditure are not equal.
Q: Finally, what would you like to add?
A: I want to warn Myanmar people who go abroad due to instability and insecurity in Myanmar, to make systematic inquiry about the current situations in the country they want to go to. I see Myanmar workers are in trouble.
Sent by Than Lwin Times