UnionAID Fact Sheet 6 Supporting real change: Burma
Burmese migrant workers in Thailand The oppression of people in Burma, as well as economic hardship, has caused a major migration of people to surrounding countries, particularly along the border in Thailand. It is estimated that there are more than 2 million Burmese refugees and migrant workers in Thailand. Migrant workers are effectively bonded to their employers and at risk of rights violations from government authorities. In many cases police, military, immigration officers, and other government officials, threaten, physically harm and extort migrant workers with impunity. They are also especially vulnerable to abusive employers and common crime. Employers frequently compel migrant workers to work long, exploitative hours, and fire them at will. Human Rights Watch reports that employers find these workers easier to control because they either do not know of, or are too intimidated to assert their rights under Thai labour laws. They force workers to accept daily wages below the legal minimum wage and cheat them out of wages. Many Thai industries such as garment, textile and footwear manufacturing, fishing and seafood processing, agriculture, and construction, are now dependent on migrant workers as the core of their workforce and to maintain their low cost export competitiveness. Further information: Human Rights Watch. 2010. From the tiger to the crocodile: Abuse of migrant workers in Thailand. New York: Human Rights Watch.