Burmese Migrants in Thailand

User Rating: / 0

by Asya Pereltsvaig

Thailand has been a major destination for migrants from the neighboring Burma (Myanmar) for decades. In the past, members of ethnic groups residing along the Thai-Burma border, such as the Karen, the Mon, and the Shan, often crossed the borders to visit friends, buy goods, or seek healthcare services. In the 1980s, under the military regime administration in Burma, this temporary migration continued unofficially even though border crossings were not officially allowed. A large number of asylum-seekers fighting against the government of Burma started to enter Thailand to take refuge in the same period. Since the 1990s, migrants from Burma, both members of ethnic minorities and Burmans, have come to Thailand mostly for economic reasons.

In Burma, slow economic growth, high unemployment, and forced labor for government development projects have pushed workers to cross into Thailand for job opportunities and higher wages. Although the minimum daily wage is Thailand only US$ 10, such pay can be as much as ten times higher than what workers can get in Burma, due in part to differences in currency strength. Most of the Burmese migrant workers are employed in unskilled occupations that are not desired by local Thai workers, particularly in agriculture, construction, fisheries, and domestic service. Although the Thai government maintains that only unskilled migrant workers can be employed, some migrants from Burma have entered the semi-skilled workforce, taking jobs in manufacturing, services and sales, and transport. Only a tiny minority of Burmese migrants, about 400 people, have gained professional employment as teachers, university lecturers, or health workers.

Regardless of their ultimate occupation, most migrants from Burma come from farming background, so they have to gain new skills in Thailand.  Learning the Thai language is particularly important. Yet there is no official training programs form migrant workers, and the children of Burmese immigrants often receive no education at all. A new school recently opened near Bangkok, however, that will offer the children of Burmese workers a chance to study Burma’s national curriculum in the Burmese language, opening up educational possibilities. The school is run by human rights organizations and local religious groups.

Currently, over a million migrant workers from Burma are registered through Thailand’s National Verification Program, aimed at giving such people some protection under Thai labor laws. Migrants from Burma constitute as much as 10 percent of Thailand’s total workforce and over 80 percent of its legal foreign workforce (the remaining legal migrant workers in Thailand come chiefly from Cambodia and Laos). But many migrants cross the Burma-Thailand border illegally and avoid registering with the authorities. They do primarily because Thai employers often try to recoup transport, visa, and other costs through deductions from the workers’ salaries or by holding their passports until they get their money back. Some sources estimate the number of illegal workers to be around one million, whereas others think that a figure of 3 million is more reasonable.

Many of the illegal migrants come with the help of human smugglers, often risking their life in doing so. In a much-publicized incident in June 2013, at least twelve Burmese migrant workers drowned off Thailand’s southwestern coast when the boats they were in sank. Many illegal migrants who do make it to Thailand are forced to live in slave-like conditions, working for up to 20 hours a day, often for months on end, and with little or no pay. Illegal migrants also face arrests and deportation. The fact that so many Burmese still cross the border into Thailand indicates how desperate the economic situation is in their homeland.
Source link:

Add comment

Security code

Anti-spam: complete the task
English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Research Paper



A Song for Arakan