15. The Situation of Migrant Workers
Throughout 2003, large numbers of people continued to leave Burma to seek work abroad. Approximately ten percent of Burma’s population migrates to other countries, according to a report, Migration, Needs, Issues and Responses in the Greater Mekong Subregion 2002, by the Asian Migrant Center. People leave Burma for a number of reasons. Rampant inflation, a deteriorating economy and general lack of employment and educational opportunities are factors that cause many people to emigrate. In addition to these hardships, many people living in rural areas are forced to pay heavy taxes to local officials and the military and to sell a large percentage of their crops to the government at below-market prices. For these reasons, many Burmese view their migration as less of a decision than an economic necessity. One migrant worker who had recently arrived to Mae Sot, Thailand said, "The price of airplane and bus tickets have gone up 3 times since January first, and all the edible and household goods have also gone up." Ma Kyi, age 40, and a mother of four, continued," so I have to come here. I have never dreamed to come to Thailand. I have never thought to leave my family. My husband's income is not enough to feed the whole family," (source: "Rapprochement Continues," Irrawaddy, 14 January 2003).
Ethnic minority people living in civil war zones often have no choice about emigrating, as they are forced to flee their homes to avoid brutal campaigns of violence against them perpetrated by SPDC soldiers. Every year thousands of people flee across the border, primarily into Thailand, to escape human rights violations which include mass forced relocation, arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, and extra-judicial killing. Some of these people are able to seek asylum in refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh. However, many of those fleeing human rights violations are not recognized as refugees by the Thai and Bangladeshi Governments. These individuals are left with the choice of trying to enter refugee camps illegally or else trying to survive as migrant workers.
Migration from Burma is facilitated by the fact that 7 of Burma’s 14 States and Divisions share borders with neighboring countries. In the west, Burma borders Bangladesh and India, in the north and northeast China, and in the east Laos, Malaysia and Thailand. In a 1999 report by Save the Children UK, Small Dreams Beyond Reach: The Lives of Migrant Children and Youth Along the Borders of China, Myanmar, and Thailand, the authors note that in the past ten years the largest flow of migrants in the Mekong region has been concentrated along the borders of China, Burma and Thailand, with Burmese people making up the largest percentage of the population migrating. The report goes on to note that while China, India, Bangladesh and Thailand have collectively reported hosting over two million Burmese migrants, the actual population of people from Burma living in these countries is likely to be much higher. However it is extremely difficult to obtain accurate estimates as to the number of Burmese working abroad, as many are illegal, and the population as a whole is highly mobile. In addition, some migrant groups are ethnically similar to indigenous populations of neighboring countries, making them difficult to identify as non-natives.
Situation for Women Migrant Workers
Women make up a significant percentage of migrants from Burma. In neighboring countries, most notably Thailand, there is a strong demand for female labor. Women who emigrate are more likely than men to work as undocumented or illegal workers. This is partly due to the fact that many women take jobs that are in the informal sector and not included in government registration. While women are subjected to the same poor conditions and abuses as men who are migrant workers, women also suffer abuses specific to their gender. Of greatest concern is the fact that Burmese women working outside their country are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse by their employers, human traffickers, local officials, or others. Many women face sexual harassment and/or sexual assault in the workplace, while they are in government detention centers, and/or in their homes and communities. Women migrant workers who are undocumented have little recourse when they are abused, as their abusers often threaten them with arrest and deportation if they complain to the authorities or try to escape their situation. In several cases, factory owners in Thailand have allowed police to enter the women’s sleeping quarters and intimidate the women. As a result of this situation, a number of young migrant women report feeling pressure to get married in order to have some protection against unwanted sexual advances from others.
As in Burma, most migrant women also suffer from a lack of access to reproductive health care, and information on STDs and contraceptives. In Gathering Strength, a report by Images Asia, the authors note that in Mae Sot, a town on the Thai/Burma border, some health workers have reported that it is more difficult to negotiate with factory managers than brothel owners about provision of reproductive health information to employees.
In January 2002, the situation for migrant women further deteriorated when the Thai Labour Ministry issued a regulation stating that female foreign workers would be given a medical checkup and those found to be pregnant would not have their licenses to work in Thailand renewed. While this regulation was later overturned following protests from human rights groups, many women report that they continue to be dismissed by their employers if they become pregnant.
Yet, preventing pregnancy is difficult because of the lack of access to safe and effective means of contraception. In Burma, it is estimated that only 28% of fertile-age women in Burma use a modern method of contraception, compared to 72% of Thai women in Thailand. As abortion is illegal in both Thailand and Burma in most cases, many women resort to traditional methods to induce abortions, which can seriously damage their health.
Abortion is ranked by the Myanmar health department among the top ten health problems in Burma, and the third main cause of illness. The estimated maternal mortality is 255/100,000 and approximately half of pregnancy-related deaths are related to abortions. For migrant women, this maternal mortality rate is significantly higher due in part to the lack of access to health services. In Burma, abortions are illegal except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger, and in Thailand abortions are illegal except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of proven rape or incest. In both countries, migrant women are in a precarious position in relation to the State, and legal abortion is almost never an option. The Thai health ministry has recorded the abortion rate among migrants as 2.4 times higher than that of Thai women. (Source: Belton, Suzanne and Cynthia Maung. “Fertility and abortion: Burmese women’s health on the Thai-Burma border,” Forced Migration Review, Issue 19, January 2004)
In 2002, Suzanne Belton, a PhD Candidate at Melbourne University’s Key Centre for Women’s Health, conducted research in Thailand focusing on reproductive health issues of migrant women. Her report noted:
"The preliminary findings of recent research of abortions in Tak [province of Thailand] reveal a serious situation, which is getting worse. In the local Thai hospitals in 2001-2002, twelve Burmese women died from lack of antenatal care, post abortion complications or delivery complications and more than 300 Burmese women were seen with post abortion complications. 1 woman from a refugee camp died during her 16th pregnancy.
In 2001, at the Mae Tao Clinic, established by Dr Cynthia Maung from Burma to treat Burmese migrants, there were 457 post abortion cases, more than double from 2000. The clinic performed 563 birth deliveries, a comparable number to post abortion cases. However, the numbers are likely to be much higher as most women still give birth and perform abortions at home with community midwives or abortionists. Of the women interviewed, more than half had been living in Thailand for more than 3 years. This demonstrates the need for long-term intervention strategies and care.
Forty percent of the women interviewed induced their own abortion before going to the clinic or hospital with home-type remedies, massage (pounding and compressing the uterus), high dosages of contraceptive pills or went to an abortionist who puts sticks, nails, etc into the womb. Some women get massive infections of their reproductive organs and lose the ability to ever become pregnant again. Abortions are particularly dangerous since they are illegal in both Thailand and Burma and the abortionists do not appear to be well trained. Legal reforms to liberalize access to clean abortion in both Thailand and Burma would decrease the sickness and deaths.
The research sampling showed that 25% of the women having an abortion experienced five or more pregnancies, which is a serious health risk for the woman. It was also noted that the women interviewed had little to no education and nearly 25% could not read or write, so alternatives to written information needs to be provided.
Poverty, domestic violence, job retention, ill-timing and community pressure were reasons cited for ending the pregnancy. Abortions and maternal health must be dealt with in the framework of these underlying causes in order for assistance and intervention to be effective and sustainable." (Source: Suzanne Belton, PhD Candidate. Melbourne University Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society Faculty of Medicine. Research conducted through the Mae Tao Clinic)
In their 2003 report “Fertility and abortion: Burmese women’s health on the Thai-Burma border,” Suzanne Belton and Cynthia Maung expanded on the above findings. The authors noted that when Mae Tao Clinic staff offered female in-patients a range of temporary and permanent contraceptive methods, most women accepted these. The researchers noted that the women were ‘very interested’ in talking about family planning. In Thai hospitals, however, health workers do not offer contraceptive information or methods to women receiving post-abortion care. The availability of such information and services could reduce abortions as well as being economical for the women, the Thai health system and NGOs providing services. A one-year contraceptive injection costs US$2.10 and female sterilization costs US$11.60.
If a woman is referred to a Thai hospital by the Mae Tao Clinic, the clinic will pay for her treatment. However, if an undocumented migrant self-refers to a Thai hospital, she must pay her own bills. It costs approximately US$53 for a woman who is hospitalized for post abortion complications in a Thai hospital and about US$230 if she dies from pregnancy related causes. Burmese women in Tak earn about US$45 per month, making hospital fees far beyond their reach. (Sources: Belton, Suzanne and Cynthia Maung. “Fertility and abortion: Burmese women’s health on the Thai-Burma border,” Forced Migration Review, Issue 19, January 2004)
Table 1. Years lived in Thailand of Burmese women experiencing a miscarriage or induced abortion.
Situation for Migrant Children
From April 1999 to March 2001, Save the Children UK conducted research along Burma’s borders with China and Thailand on the situation of Burmese children living in these countries. In the study, researchers found that the majority of migrants from Burma were young people. Beginning at age 13, children from Burma migrate on their own to search for work in neighboring countries. While some children under 13 also migrate on their own, the majority of children this age migrate with their parents or other relatives. The report went on to note that:
"The interviews in this study revealed extensive debt-bondage, sexual abuse, illegal confinement, confiscation of documents, arrest and extortion, forced overtime, few basic resources and poor living conditions that were overcrowded, insecure and often violent. Sexual abuse was commonly reported among girls and young women, particularly among those involved in sex work and domestic service. The general health problems impacting children and young people were identified as malaria (the most common illness reported), tuberculosis (TB), dengue fever, diarrhea and malnutrition. Reproductive health issues were a major concern among youth and adults at all the project sites….
Along all the borders, most of the children did not attend school and among those who did only a very few had finished primary level education. Those who were displaced or had migrated across the borders cited constant mobility, remoteness, insecurity and lack of documentation as the reasons why their children did not attend school. Economic instability and language barriers were other important factors. There was also an attitude among participants in several of the study sites that formal education would not lead to a good life, even if young people were to finish higher levels of schooling. Cross-border migration was seen as an opportunity to obtain experience and develop practical skills. Consequently, many children reported not going to school or dropping out of school early. These children began working at an early age and were vulnerable to exploitation as a result of their limited knowledge and skills.
Drug production, trafficking and addiction were critical issues identified by the communities at all of the research sites along the borders. Participants noted the problem of drug addiction, particularly among young people, with children as young as nine and ten years old considered vulnerable to experimentation and addiction. Young migrants also reported being introduced to amphetamines by their employer in order to work harder and longer hours. In addition, migrants along all three borders noted the ease of recruiting migrants into the drug trafficking business, and expressed frustration with the inability to deal with drug-related problems in their families and communities.
Child labour was found in all three countries, particularly along the border areas and among migrant populations. This was largely a result of extreme poverty and of children left orphaned or abandoned by their parents. Many young children were observed working largely in the service and entertainment sectors (such as teashops, restaurants and hotels that often included direct and indirect sex work), in agricultural related jobs, or as day labourers or beggars. In addition, child soldiers, both in the army and with armed opposition groups, were found in Myanmar. According to the attitudes and perspectives of those in this study, children were of a ‘workable age’ as early as six or seven years old…
Orphaned children along the border areas were found to be the most vulnerable, often living without assurance of their most basic needs. These children were the most likely to be exploited and trafficked. Abandonment was a common problem, related to drug trafficking and addiction, HIV/AIDS, and loss of contact with family during migration. In addition, migrants’ illegal status often leads to arrest, detention and deportation, with children reporting being treated as adults during this process, often separated from their family and communities." (Source: Caoutte, Therese. Small Dreams Out of Reach, The Lives of Migrant Children and Youth along the Borders of China, Myanmar, and Thailand, Bangkok: Save the Children UK, 2001)
Another concern with increasing numbers of families migrating from Burma is the situation for children who are born outside of Burma to Burmese parents. In both Thailand and China, the respective governments refuse to grant citizenship to children of both legal and illegal immigrants and refugees from Burma. This is highly problematic, as these children are also denied Burmese citizenship under the Burma Citizenship Act, because they were born outside the country and because their parent(s) left Burma illegally.
At present in Thailand there are no clear regulations about how hospitals should deal with the birth of babies born to parents who have illegally entered the country. Usually hospitals simply do not record the births of these children. In Ranong and Samut Sakhon, it has been reported that hospitals remove the birth records of these babies from the last page of the doctor’s appointment books, to prevent the children from claiming Thai nationality in the future. Stateless children suffer discrimination both in the country of their birth as well as in Burma, if and when they return. Without a national ID, people in Burma are unable to access educational opportunities, government employment, or to travel freely within the country. (Source: BLC, 2002)
On 2 November 2002, the Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (CPPCR - Burma) was established in Mae Sot to protect Burmese and ethnic nationality children born in Thailand from becoming stateless persons in Burma. The group started a birth registration project and has taken all steps to issue Burmese birth certificates to children born to Burmese parents in Thailand. Burma and Thailand are both signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which states:
1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to be known and be cared for by his or her parents.
2. State parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.
15. 2 Burmese Migrants in Thailand
Throughout 2003, people from Burma continued to flee to neighboring Thailand to escape a deteriorating economy and widespread human rights violations by the military regime. Estimates on the number of Burmese migrant workers vary from 400,000 to 2 million, with the average estimate at 1.5 million. More than half of these do not have work permits. Migrant workers from Burma come from a variety of geographical locations and ethnic groups. There are both push and pull factors at work when people make the decision to migrate to Thailand. The pull factors include the close geographical location of Thailand to Burma as well as the demand in Thailand for cheap labor. The push factors include the poor state of the Burmese economy and ongoing human rights violations that are specifically acute in areas along the Thai border. Many workers also report that they have come to Thailand to escape the SPDC’s demands for forced labor in their home states and divisions.
As most people emigrate from Burma due to factors that are both political and economic, it is difficult to make absolute distinctions between economic migrants, political asylum seekers, and refugees. The Royal Thai Government maintains a strict and sometimes arbitrary policy on classifying Burmese who arrive in Thailand, which means that in many cases victims of direct human rights abuses are refused access to refugee camps and international humanitarian aid. These people are faced with the choice of either trying to illegally enter the refugee camps or becoming migrant workers.
The more than 100,000 Shans currently working in Thailand as migrant laborers are visible examples of these policies. In a 2003 report entitled Shan Refugees: Dispelling the Myths, the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) presented evidence that the majority of Shans in Thailand leave their country due to human rights violations such as forced relocation, arbitrary arrest, continued fighting in Shan State, as well as the widely documented systematic rape of Shan women and girls by SPDC soldiers. Since 1996, the SPDC has forcibly relocated over 1,400 villages throughout Central Shan State, resulting in the displacement of over 300,000 people. In the years following this major displacement, the number of Shan people entering northern Thailand increased dramatically to between 8,000 and 15,000 each year. Almost all of the new arrivals post-1996 are from the areas of mass forced relocation. The monthly totals of incoming Shan people show that there is no seasonal pattern that would correlate to work opportunities in Thailand. Moreover, nearly half of the new arrivals were under 18 or over 45 years old, which suggests that these are whole families moving to escape the situation in their home state, rather than individuals coming to make money. However, because the Shan are not recognized by the Thai authorities as asylum seekers, most are required to seek work and thus fall into the category of migrant workers. Many work illegally and live in constant fear of arrest and deportation. (Source: Shan Refugees: Dispelling the Myths, Shan Women’s Action Network, September 2003)
Patterns of Migration and Trafficking
Burmese people coming to Thailand as migrant workers enter the country in different ways. Some come legally with work permits and stay the registered length of time. Others enter at legal border crossings such as Mae Sai and Mae Sot on day passes and then disappear into Thailand. For example, according to Thai immigration statistics, in the month of May, more than 50,000 Burmese people entered Thailand on border passes, but only 35,000 of those returned to Burma. Still others cross at illegal border points, swimming or wading across rivers, or hiking long distances through the mountains to enter the country secretly. People entering this way often have to pay large sums of money to be escorted across the border by human traffickers who have connections on both sides of the border, and can often provide cars for transport. One arrested trafficker estimated that 100 Burmese migrants enter Thailand illegally through Kanchanaburi province each day. He reported that traffickers received between 3,000 and 5,000 baht per trip, depending on the distance, moving people from the border to the central provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Ratchaburi and Nonthaburi (source: “Thai Border Police Officer Arrested for Human Smuggling," Xinhua, 19 November 2003). Thus many migrants enter Thailand with huge debts owed to the people who helped smuggle them in.
Once inside the country, many migrants stay in the border areas because jobs are easy to find, there is already a Burmese community, and further travel outside of these areas is risky for undocumented people. In the border town of Mae Sot, for example, there are an estimated up to 100,000 Burmese migrant workers employed in about 130 factories and on fruit and vegetable plantations and flower farms in the surrounding areas. Thousands of Burmese (mostly Mons) from Mon State work in the fisheries in the southern border town of Maharchai, and many Shans work in the northern border areas. Some of these workers obtain legal work permits, while the majority work illegally in Thailand.
The year 2003 saw change in migration patterns, with an increasing number of migrants attempting to travel further into Thailand to work, due in part to heightened pressure on migrant workers and security crackdowns in the border areas. One report estimates that more than 70% of the Burmese who remained in Thailand were smuggled into the inner provinces to work in factories (source: “Killing Seen as Warning to Others,” Bangkok Post, 28 May 2003). Furthermore, there were reports of Burmese migrants illegally entering the country through Thai-Burma border areas like Mesauk, Ya Naung, Me Saing, Phaya Thone Su, and migrating to cities in the central part of Thailand. Most of these workers are deported from the more common border crossings and attempt to enter Thailand again (source: “Increased Arrests Fail to Deter Burmese Illegal Entries to Thailand," Mizzima, 20 January 2003).
The cost of being smuggled into central Thailand is high, and in April 2003 the fee for supplying border workers from border provinces to inner provinces reportedly doubled to 10,000 baht per head (source: “Killing Seen as Warning to Others," Bangkok Post, 28 May 2003). Other sources report that due to this year’s increase of roadblocks on the Mae Sot to Bangkok highways, traffickers and the people they are aiding prefer to trek across the Tha Nong Thong Chai mountain range to get to Kamphengphet Province. While in 2002 a car could be arranged to take migrants all the way from Mae Sot to Bangkok for 2,000 baht, this year migrants had to pay 6,000 baht just to get from Mae Sot to Kamphengphet by foot. The additional leg to Bangkok by car was 2,000 baht, according to Thai officials (source: “Migrants and Traffickers Arrested in Jungle," Irrawaddy, 25 June 2003).
In 2003, the Thai government announced that they were stepping up plans to control human traffickers, but no major policy changes were noted and there was no visible decrease in the trafficking market. According to Viraphong Subbanaphong, secretary of the Mae Sot district office, human traffickers can face prison terms of up to ten years but in reality most traffickers are quickly released on bail (source: “Migrants and Traffickers Arrested in Jungle," Irrawaddy, 25 June 2003).
Burma was 1 of 15 countries to be placed on Tier 3, the lowest level of US government standards, for its failure to make any significant efforts to stop human trafficking as per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (source: Under Pressure, ALTSEAN, 1 July – 30 September 2003). The SPDC continued to claim to be fighting human trafficking, and according to statistics released by Burma’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Burmese authorities arrested 417 human traffickers between July 2002 and August 2003. They also claimed to have “educated” 82,251 people against human trafficking in that same period. Although the SPDC has implemented anti-trafficking laws and a public anti-trafficking campaign, sources say that traffickers are rarely punished and are usually released after bribing officials. According to 1 source, every city in Burma has a sign warning locals to "be aware of human trafficking agents,” and every village head has been ordered to search for traffickers. The results of these efforts appear to be negligible. (Sources: “Increased Arrests Fail to Deter Burmese Illegal Entries to Thailand," Mizzima, 20 January 2003; “Myanmar Arrests Over 400 Human Traffickers in a Year," Xinhua News Agency, 8 September 2003) (See chapter on the rights of women for more information.)
Living and Working Conditions
In July 2002, Amnesty International released a report, "Myanmar: Lack of Security in Counter-Insurgency Areas," which noted that migrants in Thailand face many difficulties and abuses. AI researchers interviewed 100 Burmese migrants in Thailand who reported that they had paid between 4,500 and 10,000 baht (US$104 to 233) to be brought to Thailand by human smugglers.
Once in Thailand, Burmese migrants work in a number of industries and service sectors, often in dirty and sometimes dangerous conditions for pay that is far below the Thai minimum wage. Workers in factories report that there are many injuries that occur and that workers rarely receive any compensation for work related accidents or deaths. Workers in garment factories are often not given face masks to protect them from harmful chemicals. A number of agricultural workers have suffered from respiratory or other problems as a result of long-term exposure to chemical pesticide spray. These workers typically are not given masks, gloves or other protective gear even when they are in contact with chemicals that are known to be harmful. In 2002, Thai health officials tested blood samples from 208 Burmese migrant workers in the villages of Mae Ku and Mahawan, close to the border checkpoint at Mae Sot. According to one official involved in the study, 21 percent of those tested were in a state of 'danger' due to high chemical contents in their blood. (Source: "Burmese Workers Face Chemical Danger," Irrawaddy, 1 April 2003)
All migrant workers face a common fear of arrest and deportation. This fear keeps many migrants from moving freely and impedes their access to health care and other social services that may be available. Further, because many Thai employers keep migrant workers’ work permits, the migrants are unable to access the 30 baht Thai health scheme to which they are entitled because they have the permits. Workers without permits cannot usually afford the fees in Thai hospitals. For these reasons migrants suffer in silence from easily treatable diseases. The spread of communicable diseases is facilitated by lack of access to health care facilities and medicine, cramped living conditions and poor sanitation. Lack of knowledge of the local language also prevents migrants from seeking help when they face unhealthy or dangerous situations. This combination of fear of arrest and lack of knowledge about the laws, customs and language of their host country means that migrants are easily exploited and abused by their employers, Thai officials and others.
Violence against migrant workers by Thais is also common. For example, in Maharchai (also known as Samutsakhon) in Southern Thailand, several incidences of attacks and robbery of migrant workers were reported. According to Mon community workers, no police action was taken. The attackers were reportedly local, young mafia groups who deliberately target migrant workers. As a result of these attacks, Mons employed on the rubber plantations are reportedly scared to sleep in their homes away from the plantations, and instead remain as a group and sleep in the fields. (Source: “Migrant Workers Attacked by Thai Mafia," Kao Wao News, No. 44, May 2003)
Violence against and intimidation of people providing assistance and support for migrant workers also occurred this year. It was reported that, in December 2003, posters were made with photos of two prominent members of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association (YCOWA), one of the organizations involved in supporting Burmese migrant workers in several legal cases against their employers. The posters were circulated around Mae Sot and, according to the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), the police were looking for the two men from YCOWA, who had gone into hiding. The men are exiled activists from Burma, and if deported they could face long-term imprisonment and torture. (Source: “Abuses of Migrant Workers in Thailand,” Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), Sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, United Nations Economic and Social Council, 12 February 2004)
The Memorandum of Understanding
In June 2003, Thailand and Burma signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on migrant workers, similar to the MoUs Thailand had previously signed with Laos and Cambodia. The bilateral agreement is meant to establish a legal labor import system in coming years, and also sets the terms for the repatriation of illegal Burmese workers
The proposed changes to the regulations for migrant workers include requiring all legal migrants to have passports, visas, official contracts and limited terms of stay. The changes, aimed to start in 2004, mean that all imported workers would receive a two-year work permit, renewable only once. Fifteen percent of their wages would be deducted and returned to them when they return to their home country, theoretically to help with the costs of repatriation. Foreign workers will be charged a fee for medical examinations and work permits, and employers will be charged around 3,000 baht for permits and for arranging utilities and other services for their staff. Further changes to the permitted categories of labour for migrants are also expected. The Thai Labour Ministry also plans to allow Burmese workers to come to Thailand for the day to work in border factories, as long as they return home in the evenings.
Labor experts have expressed doubts about the transition to the import of legal labour, saying that one year is not a realistic time frame to institute such massive changes. Many Burmese people do not have passports, as current fees of about 50,000 baht (US$1,220) for obtaining one put them out of reach for most Burmese citizens. Also, because the Burmese government denies citizenship to many members of ethnic minority groups in Burma, many migrants are unable to prove Burmese nationality. Further, migrant workers who fled Burma due to human rights abuses will be hesitant to return there in order to re-enter Thailand legally. Thai Labor Minister Suwat Liptapanlop said that Burma would have to address the passport problem, and stated, “I believe they will do what they must to support their citizens to come to work here for our mutual economic benefit.” (Sources: “Extension of Permits Urged," Bangkok Post, 30 June 2003; “Seeking Solutions That Work," Bangkok Post, 17 September 2003)
In 2003, the implementation of the MoU had two main effects. The first was a reduction in the number of labour sectors in which migrant workers were legally entitled to register for work (see section on Thai Migration Policy and Legal Registration of Migrant Workers). The second effect of the MoU this year was the effective streamlining of the deportation process for migrant workers. Under the agreement, Burmese authorities consented to accept all deported illegal workers regardless of ethnicity. In the past, Thai officials had to send the SPDC a list of names of any illegal workers being deported, and had to wait for Burmese officials to verify the workers’ citizenship before the Thai government could send them back. Thus the Thai government was often required to hold deportees in detention centres for long periods of time while the SPDC decided whether or not to allow its nationals to return. Under the MoU, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said, “We could directly send illegal Burmese workers to the border without having to send their names [to the Burmese authorities] in advance.” (Sources: “Burma Says Yes to Deal on Repatriation,” The Nation, 20 May 2003; Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Human Rights Watch, February 2004). Since the implementation of the MoU in August 2003, 400 migrants have been ‘officially’ deported every month from Mae Sot directly into the SPDC holding center in Myawaddy. (Please see section on Deportation.)
Thai Migration Policy and Legal Registration of Migrant Workers
Thailand’s policy on migration prioritizes economic development and national security, sometimes at the expense of protecting the rights of migrant workers. For the past 8 years, Thai migration policy has been drafted through a series of cabinet resolutions which reflect the attitude of whatever administration is currently in office. Contradictions between these resolutions have inhibited the formation of a coherent policy on migration and thus hindered the development of a consistent strategy for implementation.
Thai law defines an illegal alien as a person without Thai citizenship who has entered the Kingdom in violation of section 12 of the Immigration Act of 1979. According to this Act, migrants found to be in the country illegally will be repatriated to their countries of origin. In March 1992, the Thai cabinet passed the first of a successive number of resolutions which have allowed migrants to pay a fee and apply for a work permit which allows them to work legally in Thailand. The permit limits work to specific industries in designated parts of the country. Migrants with work permits are protected under the 1997 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand and covered by most of the provisions in the Labour Protection Act of 1998. The work permit also gives migrants access to the 30-baht health scheme, where each visit to a doctor or clinic costs only 30 baht plus the cost of medicine. Unfortunately enforcement of these protections for migrant workers has been lax, and many workers are not aware of what rights the permit entitles them to and how to respond if these rights are violated.
In addition, Burmese migrant workers often find it difficult to obtain a work permit for a number of reasons. The permit costs 4,450 baht for 1 year, which is too expensive for many workers, who make an average salary of 1,500-2,000 baht a month. In addition, a worker has to be guaranteed by a factory owner or other Thai employer in order to register for a permit. In the past, a key complaint with the work permit system was that registered workers were not allowed to change jobs without losing their legal status. During the September 2002 registration period, changes were made in the regulations which allowed legal workers to change jobs and register with a new employer. These new regulations stated that if and when a registered worker is fired or leaves their job for any reason, they are required to find a new job (and employer to guarantee them) within 7 days or they will lose their permit. This process is still problematic, as in order to register with a new employer, the worker has to first obtain a signature of consent from his or her previous employer. In practice, employers rarely give consent for their workers to switch jobs, as they do not want employees to move to other factories or businesses which may pay higher salaries. As a result, even with the change in regulations, most workers remain unable to change jobs while retaining their legal status. Due to this, employers can prevent workers from striking or complaining about salaries and working conditions by threatening to fire them. Shortly before the end of 2003, the seven day grace period was reportedly eliminated without workers being notified. (Source: “Nasawat Apparel Factory, Mae Sot," Information Release 2, Action Network for Migrants, 19 December 2003)
In some areas of Thailand, specifically in areas on the border with Burma, employers of Burmese workers withhold their employees’ work permits. In these cases, workers are only given a photocopy of their work permit, which is often not accepted by police as valid identification. Workers report that when they are stopped by officials, they are either forced to give bribe money, or else wait for their employer to be contacted to come and vouch for them. In these cases, employers often do not bother coming to the police station or detention center and the arrested workers are deported and their copy of the work permit confiscated. Migrants in areas where this practice is common are as a result increasingly choosing not to renew their permits.
During the registration renewal period for migrant workers that ran from 15 September to 15 October 2002, Thailand instituted a new form, the Tor Dor 13, which migrants had to fill out. This form required that applicants provide their addresses in their home countries, leading some workers to fear that their families in Burma might face harassment from the SPDC which actively discourages illegal migration. Migrants were also afraid that if they gave a false address then they would be banned by the SPDC from returning to Burma in the future.
The Burmese Border Consortium commented on the registration of migrant workers: “After registering migrant workers in October 2001 and then carrying out re-registration exercises annually since, the government has yet to find a satisfactory way of controlling numbers whilst supplying Thai industry with the cheap workforce it needs. The original registered case-load of 570,000 has dropped to around 120,000 although this has been boosted by the ad hoc registering of an additional 160,000 or so. Meanwhile a survey conducted by the National Security Council in 2003 has revealed a growing need for migrant labour. It is understood that there is now a plan to carry out a new registration of all employed migrant workers in the coming months. Whilst this can be welcomed, the policy is still demand-driven and ignores the “push factor” which drives many of these people into Thailand.” (Source: BBC 6-month Report, BBC, June-December 2003)
In late August 2003, following the implementation of the MoU, the Thai government announced that the registration period from 1 to 25 September was to be the last chance for migrant workers to renew their work permits. New workers were not permitted to register during this period. A Cabinet resolution passed on 27 August 2003, allowed workers in the sectors of general labor, fisheries, housework, animal farming and agricultural farming to renew their work permits for 1 more year before 2004's transition to the import of legal laborers. However, the resolution prohibits the renewal of work permits for foreigners working in many sectors including restaurants, laundries, beauty parlors, hotels and street vending. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, these categories of labour were no longer open to foreign workers. Further, the resolution forbids migrants from registering outside of the province in which they are currently working. This resolution affected an estimated 12,000 migrant workers who were working with permits in Thailand. Employers in sectors that were not granted renewal of work permits for Burmese migrants were reportedly instructed by labor officials to send foreign workers to the nearest police stations or checkpoints in their respective townships. (Sources: “Seeking Solutions that Work," Bangkok Post, 17 September 2003; “Foreign Labors to Be Replaced by Thai Workers," Network Media Group, 13 September 2003)
Deportation of Migrants
When undocumented migrant workers are arrested in Thailand, they are dealt with in a number of ways. Some are quickly released, either after paying a bribe to police on the spot or after being held for a short time at a police station and then bribing their way out. Others are sent to the Immigration Detention Centers (IDC) – either in Mae Sot or Bangkok. In November 2003, the National Security Council revealed plans to establish three more of these holding centers in the border provinces of Ranong, Tak and Chiang Rai to hold illegal immigrants who were awaiting deportation.
Once an undocumented migrant worker has been sent to an IDC, there are three possible scenarios. The vast majority of these migrants are ‘informally’ deported. They are either dropped off on the Thai side of the border in Mae Sot, where most of them can easily bribe their way back into town, or they are taken across the river to areas controlled by the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army), a military group that has signed a ceasefire with the Burmese government. On the Burmese side of the border, many of the migrants bribe their way back across the river and into Thailand, while others fend for themselves against the DKBA and SPDC armed forces. Thai Immigration statistics estimate that the number of unofficial deportations from Mae Sot in 2003 averaged about 10,000 people per month. These workers are caught in an expensive cat and mouse game, stuck in a cycle between the Thai authorities, the SPDC, armed ethnic groups, and traffickers – all who profit from the continued movement of migrant workers.
The second way out of an IDC is to the Special Detention Centre (SDC). The SDC is primarily for political activists, and it is very difficult for people held here to gain release.
The final way for an undocumented migrant worker to leave an IDC is by ‘formal’ deportation, a process that returns Burmese migrants directly into the SPDC holding center in Myawaddy. The holding centre was established in February 2002 following negotiations between the Thai and Burmese governments on the repatriation of migrant workers. The holding center (in Burmese Ke Say Yee Sa Kan) is run by the Directorate of the Defense Service Intelligence (DSI) of the Ministry of Defense, and specifically by Military Intelligence Unit 25. At the reception center, deportees are reportedly placed under a combined police, military and DKBA guard. All returned migrants are screened through a series of interviews with immigration and public health officials, and members of military intelligence. This screening process is particularly dangerous for any migrants seen to have political connections, or any who test positive for HIV.
Since August 2003, when the MoU was implemented, 400 migrants have been ‘officially’ deported every month from Mae Sot directly to the SPDC holding center in Myawaddy. These formal deportations take place on the first and third Monday of every month, with 200 people being deported on both days. According to SPDC statistics, 9,556 people were officially deported directly into the Myawaddy holding center between February 2002 and 26 April 2003, a significant increase over the prior year’s figure of 3,681 people processed in the same period. (Source: “Myanmar-Thai Meeting on Illegal Workers Ends in Myanmar,” Xinhua, 15 May 2003)
Thai immigration officials make no attempt to determine if any deportees are refugees or have any fear of persecution if returned to Burma. Instead, local Thai officials regularly assume that all people without ID documents outside the refugee camps are illegal immigrants. According to the Burmese Border Consortium (BBC), the UNHCR has been invited to screen the IDC list of all formal deportees and to provide assistance to those claiming refugee status. It is also possible for individuals slated for formal deportation to make an asylum claim with UNHCR officials at the IDC in Bangkok. These individuals can then be removed from the formal deportation system; however the only option for these individuals is to be informally deported. (Source: Six Month Report, BBC, July-December 2003)
The reality is that although many people do migrate to Thailand for economic reasons, many others are also refugees, political exiles and activists. Often an individual falls into more than one, if not all categories. For example, many refugees attempt to supplement their inadequate diet by leaving their assigned refugee camps illegally, and working for short-term labor projects or daily wage work. Others come to Thailand as either refugees or illegal immigrants, and then become involved with some of the many Burmese opposition groups based along the Thai-Burma border. Often people became refugees because they were politically active inside Burma.
SPDC officials at the Myawaddy holding centre specifically screen returned migrants for those who may be affiliated with political opposition groups. Thai authorities also submit personal data on deportees to SPDC officials at the time of repatriation. These officials then cross-check this information with their own files to search for dissidents. As most political activity is criminalized in Burma, this process places past and present politically active deportees at severe risk of arrest, interrogation, torture, and arbitrary detention.
In addition to political screening, returned migrants are also tested for a number of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. A number of human rights organizations have protested this mandatory HIV/AIDS testing, and the reported separation of at least 20 individuals who tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Such mandatory testing contravenes UN HIV Principles and Guidelines to which Thailand and Burma are signatory.
Moreover, aside from the ICRC, there are no international organizations regularly monitoring the conditions at the reception center. The ICRC was granted access to the reception center in April 2002 and has performed visits on both deportation and non-deportation days in coordination with the Burmese authorities.
Deportees have also reported that as part of an ongoing campaign to discourage illegal emigration, SPDC officials at the reception camp are reportedly photographing and maintaining records of personal data on all deportees. Those deported are informed that if the SPDC officials collect three photographs of one returnee, (i.e. if someone is deported through the reception camp three times) then that person will be arrested for illegal emigration. According to SPDC regulation 367/120-(b)(1), these individuals can be sentenced to up to 7 years imprisonment.
At the end of the screening process, it appears that people are dealt with in one of two ways: those who are able to find a resident of Myawaddy prepared to vouch for them are simply released after paying between 2,000-3,500 kyat; while the remainder are transported by truck back to their home districts. Individuals transported back to their home districts are required to pay a transportation fee which varies according to distance. It costs for example, only 150 kyat to be transported to nearby Moulmein but 1,400 kyat to be deported to Arakan State. People who have no relatives or friends in Myawaddy to vouch for them and who cannot afford to pay this transportation fee sometimes have to stay in the area working as lookouts to guard train tracks, bridges and government buildings until they can save up the cost of the repatriation fee.
Many people attempt to evade the screening process and/or forced transfer to their home districts by paying bribes to officials. Other deportees apparently are able to bribe their way out at the customs checkpoint on arrival, or else manage to run away during transfer back to their home districts. Having escaped or bribed their way out of official custody, it reported to be a relatively simple matter for migrants to secretly cross the border and re-enter Thailand illegally. Many people wade across the Moei River, which separates the two countries, everyday.
The SPDC actively discourages people, and especially women, from migrating abroad. One reason for this is that the regime fears that migrants will report on human rights abuses inside the country to opposition groups or other human rights organizations. Major General Kyaw Win has stated that part of the SPDC’s "Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign" includes efforts to "teach people about negative consequences of working abroad." This campaign appears to focus less on education than on threats and punishment of people found to have worked, or planning to work, abroad. In a number of states and Divisions the SPDC is creating "Human Trafficking Prevention Committees" which have been ordered to collect data on everyone between 16 and 25 years of age, and to investigate anyone traveling to border areas. (Source: ALTSEAN, 2002)
Some migrants have reported that once they are returned to their villages from the Myawaddy holding center, they are forced to sign pledges saying they will never attempt to leave Burma again. They are threatened with prison sentences and heavy fines if they do so. (Please see Chapter on Freedom of Assembly, Association, and Movement.)
Women and girls have been specifically targeted in these campaigns. The Myanmar Women’s Affair Association chairperson Dr. Daw Khin Win Shwe, wife of Gen. Khin Nyunt issued an order that young women be prohibited from working in Thailand in order to prevent trafficking. Young women are further prohibited from traveling to Thailand except in the company of a guardian. Women who are found to have disobeyed this order can be put in prison for one to three years. (See chapter on women for more information.)
2003 Timeline of Events for Burmese Migrants in Thailand
· In early January, 200 Mon migrant workers were arrested while vacationing at Cha Am beach for their annual New Year celebration. The workers were from Maharchai, which has a large migrant community working in the fisheries. Police officers rounded up the workers while they were swimming near the beach on 29 December 2002. Despite the fact that the workers had valid work permits, they were charged with entering a restricted area. According to labor law, workers are only allowed to travel within their work district unless they have the permission of the Ministry of Labor. Mi Yin, a Mon migrant worker, said, "We have gone there every year on our New Year's holiday… we have never been arrested in the past." The detainees were held at Cha Am for 2 days and were then transferred to the IDC in Bangkok, before being swiftly deported to the Burmese border. (Source: “Migrant Workers Arrested on Holiday Trip,” Kao Wao News No. 35, 5 January 2003)
· On 8 January, according to reports from the KNU Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, Thai authorities working with SPDC soldiers forced 11 undocumented migrant families in Ban Bongti, Kanchanaburi Province to resettle to a site across the border in Tenasserim Division. The area is still a free-fire zone but the SPDC has declared several villages ‘safe’ for resettlement. The Thai government was reportedly planning to send back more migrant families, including some with Thai ID cards. (Source: Charm Offensive, ALTSEAN , January – March 2003)
· On 9 January, at a conference organized by the UN Children's Fund, Thailand's interior minister admitted that the government had no way of tracking the number of babies born to illegal immigrants in the country. Because babies born to Burmese workers are not registered, they could have problems entering Burma as the SPDC only accepts returnees with official Burmese ID documents. Gopalan Balagopal, UNICEF senior adviser on child protection, called for governments that had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to respect their commitment toward registering births and ensuring children had access to basic rights. (Source: "Concern over Kin of Illegal Burmese," Bangkok Post, 10 January 2003)
· On 13 January, 15 Burmese migrants were handed over to the Burmese authorities. They were reportedly part of a group of 58 Burmese who were arrested in Bangkok in mid-2002. The workers had been held at the IDC in Bangkok since their arrest. DVB reported that two of the workers died while in detention. The delay in their deportation was due to the Burmese embassy’s request that the Thai officials verify the individuals’ Burmese citizenship. Under Burmese law, nationals who are found to have entered neighboring countries illegally can be sentenced from six months to five years in prison. Thirty-nine of the arrested had been deported on 19 December, and the military authorities in Burma were allegedly imprisoning those who could not pay 50,000 kyat upon their re-entry. Four workers were still being held while their addresses in Burma were being located. (Sources: "Rapprochement Continues," Irrawaddy, 14 January 2003; “Illegal Workers Returned to Burma Thai Authorities ,“ DVB, 13 January 2003)
· On 31 January, DVB reported that the Thai authorities were planning to step-up arrests of illegal immigrants, including Burmese people, in their efforts to crackdown on drug trafficking across the Thai-Burma border. The three-month operation, starting 1 February, would particularly affect the Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang areas. (Source: “More Arrests in Thailand," DVB, 31 January 2003)
· On 10 February, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made a one-day trip to Burma to discuss bilateral cooperation with General Than Shwe. They discussed the situation of illegal migrants to Thailand, and Than Shwe assured Thailand that Burma would be willing to take back illegal migrants found in Thailand. Thaksin also mentioned supporting a job creation project that would help returnees to Burma. The project would involve animal husbandry and agriculture, and the Thai government would agree to purchase some of the products. (Source: "Talks with Junta Fruitful, Says PM," The Nation, 11 February 2003)
· According to sources at the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), a migrant worker was severely injured by electric shock on 14 March 2003. The worker reportedly had an accident while working at Bang Song Kwae Garment Factory, in Mae Sot, Tak, and the accident resulted in the amputation of both his arms. He received no compensation for his injuries. (“Earn Abroad, Spend at Home,” Kao Wao News, No. 44, 14-29 May 2003)
· On 28 April, it was reported that 26 Burmese migrant workers were preparing a lawsuit against the factory owners of Nut Knitting Factory (a.k.a. Baht-Ta-Yar Wool Factory). The workers accused the owners of owing 4.6 million baht in unpaid wages and compensation for unfair dismissal. The trial began in November 2002, and in February 2003 the owners were ordered by the Thai Labour department to pay the workers. Instead, the 26 workers were arrested in late April and charged with working illegally, and then deported to Myawaddy. According to Thai immigration law, the workers are allowed to be granted permits to return to Thailand to attend their hearing. However, it was not clear that the workers would actually be given permission to re-enter Thailand, and no date for the trial had been set. The Migrant Assistance Program Foundation (MAP), Yaung Chi Oo Workers’ Association and the Thai Law Society were assisting the workers in their trial. (Sources: “Burmese Workers on Trial to Get Wages Sent Back,” Network Media Group, 24 April 2003; “Burmese Workers Sue for Unpaid Wages," Irrawaddy, 28 April 2003)
· On 1 May, the Thai government stated they would resort to the systematic arrest and deportation of unregistered Burmese workers. Following this announcement, Mizzima news quoted a Bangkok immigration officer as saying, “On May 23rd, we arrested more than 1,500 illegal Burmese workers and repatriated them to Burmese territory.” (Source: “Illegal Burmese Workers Arrested in Bangkok," Mizzima, 25 May 2003)
· In Chiang Mai, 29 Burmese and Shan women were arrested during a 3 May raid at the Roemyen Cafe karaoke restaurant. None of the women had work permits or visas, and they were charged with selling sex services. Police acted on a tip-off, and said they believed the women had been tricked into coming to work at the restaurant and later forced into providing sex services. Ben Sawasdiwat, an activist with Traf Cord, an NGO working against human trafficking, said that his organization, “will force police to file a lawsuit against the restaurant’s owner in order to stop the cycle of human trafficking, or at least decrease it.” (Source: “29 Alien Sex Workers Arrested in Police Raid," The Nation, 4 May 2003)
· On 7 May, AFP reported that 600 Burmese migrant workers protested at Rian Thong Apparel, a Taiwanese factory based in Mae Sot, Tak, when the factory owners refused their demands for a salary increase. Workers had asked for an increase from 95 baht to 140 baht per dozen garments made, which is the average daily workload. The protest lasted for three hours, during which time the workers destroyed sewing machines and other equipment. The employer allegedly assaulted two female workers by hitting them with shoes. Police were called and the protest was stopped, and employers eventually agreed to the salary increase. In addition, the Taiwanese employer who hit the two workers was replaced with a Thai manager. (Source: "Thai Factory Unrest Erupts as 600 Myanmar Labourers Protest Wages," AFP, 7 May 2003)
· On 20 May, the same day the Thai government announced its intentions to sign the MoU with Burma on the repatriation of migrants, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai also announced plans to build a new bridge linking Mae Sai and Tachileik. The two countries signed an agreement on 19 May for the building of a second “friendship bridge” across the Mae Sai River, meant to boost trade and tourism in the upper Mekong region. (Source: “New Bridge to Link Mae Sai and Tachilek," The Nation, 20 May 2003)
· On 23 May, the charred bodies of six Burmese migrant workers were found in Huay Kalok village in Mae Sot district. The men were identified as Min Hein (age 23), Thein Naing (age 33), Aye Min (age 22), Ah Nge Lay (age 10), Maung Maung (age 24), and Ah Nyar Thar (age 22). They had been working on a construction project in Mae Pa, and had gone missing on 14 May. According to a formal written complaint given to the National Human Rights Commission by the victims’ relatives, “the missing persons were last seen in the custody of uniformed Thai police. These same police had administered beatings on the six men after other Thai nationals had beaten the men earlier.” Witnesses say the men were handcuffed and taken away in a pick-up truck by the uniformed officials.
The letter went on to say that, “Because local Thai officials are clearly involved in the disappearance of the men, we hesitate to lodge formal complaints through local channels out of fear for our own safety. Even now, we are afraid for our safety.... Official complicity in this case, combined with the knowledge that local authorities in Mae Sot rarely, if ever, protect Burmese migrant workers, means that the only possibility for recourse on our behalf is through national organisations such as the National Human Rights Commission.” (Source: “Mae Sot Horror: Six Men Burned to Death," The Nation, 24 May 2003)
Shortly after the murders, the chief of Mae Sot district, Samart Loyfa, suggested that a human trafficking ring was behind the killings, as a lesson to other illegal workers. (Source: “Killing Seen as a Warning to Others," Bangkok Post, 28 May 2003)
Mae Pa village headman Woon Tamingkum was arrested as the chief suspect in the case, but was released on bail on 2 June. On 7 July, Thai police arrested two more men in connection with the 14 May murders – 43-year-old Mae Pa village official Somnik Jasunan, and 38-year-old Mae Pa village protection unit member Boonchawei Sawasdi. Both men were released the following day after they paid 500,000 baht in bail. (Source: “Two More Arrests over Mae Sot Massacre," Irrawaddy, 7 July 2003)
· On 28 May, Pol. Lt-Gen Charnwut Wacharaput, Chief of Thailand’s immigration police, met with 514 arrested Burmese migrants and four Thai employers in Mae Sot at the Immigration Detention Center. He threatened the Burmese workers not to return to Thailand, reminded the employers that it is illegal to hire workers without permits, and sent out vague warnings to Thai human traffickers. He also revealed a plan proposed to start in June under which people arrested for immigration violations in Mae Sot would have their fingerprints taken and catalogued. (Source: “Burmese Migrants and Their Employers Warned,” Irrawaddy, 29 May 2003)
· On 24 June, 420 Burmese workers were fired from the King Body Concept Co. Ltd Factory in Mae Sot, Tak. All of these workers had legal work permits, and thus under Thai law were guaranteed the same rights as Thai workers. Though the Thai workers in the factory received the minimum wage of 133 baht a day and 25 baht an hour for overtime, the Burmese workers only earned 55 baht a day and 5 baht for overtime. Further, the Burmese workers were not allowed to refuse to work overtime, and during busy periods at the factory they were sometimes forced to work until 3:00 am. As in most Mae Sot factories, the employer retained the original copies of the workers’ permits, giving the workers only a photocopy which put them in danger of arrest and deportation. At the beginning of June 2003, living conditions at the factory worsened, with workers reporting a lack of water for drinking and bathing, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. On 18 June, all the Burmese workers signed a statement to their employer with their demands for fair wages and hours and decent living conditions. The employer failed to respond to their requests, so on 20 June, they sent a formal complaint letter to the Tak Labor Protection and Welfare office. The labor office agreed to send a labor official on 23 June to mediate between the workers and the employer.
One 20 June, the workers went to the factory but were told there was no work and that the next two days would be a holiday as well.
Before the meeting on 23 June, the factory owner called the Tak police and the immigration department. While 10 workers were meeting with the owner and the labor official, police with guns rounded up the rest of the workers. After the meeting, the factory owner refused to accept any of the workers’ demands and fired all the workers, giving their absence for the past three days as the reason. He refused to pay them the two months compensation he was required by law to provide.
After they were fired, the immigration police took the workers to the Mae Sot IDC. According to witnesses, several Thai labor officials were present during this arrest and they did nothing to intervene despite the fact that this was an illegal arrest. Under Thai law, registered workers who are dismissed have 7 days to find a new job before they are subject to deportation. The following are the names of the worker representatives from King Body Concept Factory:
(1) A Htun, female;
(2) Ko Latt, male;
(3) Sar U, female;
(4) Zar Chi Thein, female;
(5) May Oo, female;
(6) Thitsar, female;
(7) San San Lwin, female;
(8) Than Soe, male;
(9) Nwe Htun, female;
(10) Kaw Kaw, female;
(11) Myalay, female;
(12) Mapai, female;
(13) Maw Maw lwin, female;
(14) Chit Htway, male;
(15) Htway Hlay, female;
(16) Nan Khan Kyaw, female;
(17) Win Cho, female;
(18) Aye Mya Nwe, female;
(19) Ohmar Soe, female; and
(20) Thu Zar Myint, female.
(Source: YCOWA, 24 June 2004)
· On 25 June, 88 illegal Burmese migrants and two traffickers were arrested trying to cross the mountains from Mae Sot to Kamphengphet Province. The workers had paid the traffickers in advance for the trip, which they said cost 6,000 baht, and planned to continue on to Bangkok by car. Most of them had borrowed the money to make the trip. One of the arrested men, Maung Maung, said, “The money I used to travel to Bangkok was borrowed in Burma because I could not find enough money to feed my family. Now I am in custody and the interest is growing day by day.” The arrested migrants were to be deported. Though the traffickers reportedly face prison terms of up to ten years, it was not clear what their punishment would be. The apprehended traffickers were 14 and 15 years old. (Source: “Migrants and Traffickers Arrested in Jungle," Irrawaddy, 25 June 2003)
· Villagers from Mae Samplet village, a border village near Mae Sariang, reported that Thai authorities had issued an order not to allow any Burmese visitor to stay overnight in the town. The town is on the bank of the Salween River, part of a trade route for Burmese business men from Kayah and Karen State. Villagers were also told not to carry Burmese on their boats. No reason was given for the order. (Source: “Thai Says No More Burmese Visitors at Border Village,” Network Media Group, 31 July 2003)
· On 8 August, 5 Burmese Muslim youth who had returned from Mae Sot to Burma voluntarily were arrested in Myawaddy. According to the Muslim Agency for News, the 5 workers had left Thailand due to increased harassment by Thai authorities, and were arrested upon their return for ‘illegal border crossing.’ They were reportedly asked to pay 200,000 kyat each to the arresting authorities, and when they couldn’t do this they were sent to Moulmein Prison. (Source: “Five Muslims Arrested in Myawaddi Town," Kaladan, 11 August 2003)
· On 13 August, according to a labor rights group, 120 Burmese workers were locked out of the JP Knitting Factory in Mae Sot, Tak while their owner tried to move factories and escape without paying the workers their overdue salaries. The workers were undocumented because, as per reports from the workers, their employer had not bothered to register for work permits. The factory owner told workers to hide in the forest because immigration officials were coming, and due to their undocumented status they were at risk of arrest and deportation. When the workers were gone he started moving his equipment to another factory. The next day the workers returned and saw this, and they informed the village headman and the landlord, who were owed money by the owner. On 15 August, the owner showed up with plain-clothes policemen and gave 300 baht to each worker, though some workers didn't receive their money because the owner ran away when the media showed up. At the time of this press release, most of the workers were still hiding in the forest. (Source: Press Release, YCOWA, 18 August 2003)
· In August, the Thai Labor Ministry ordered the arrest and deportation of monks from Burma who had ‘come to work in Thailand in disguise.’ Police announced plans to search 189 temples in nine provinces. Over a period of one month, it was reported that 103 monks from four temples in Bangkok had been arrested and deported. Many of the monks and novices were undocumented Mon and Shan. Police also raided the San Papao Temple in Chiang Mai, but the detained individuals were released after the intervention of a respected abbot. (Source: Under Pressure, ALTSEAN, July-September 2003)
· On 27 August, the Cabinet passed a resolution allowing the renewal of work permits for workers currently working in the fields of general labor, fisheries, housework, animal farming and agricultural farming. Employers who hire migrant workers were required to register for a permit as well. This same resolution prohibits the renewal of work permits for approximately 12,000 migrant workers in many sectors including restaurants, hotels, laundries, beauty parlors and auto repair shops. Further, workers were not allowed to register outside of the province they were currently working in, nor were new workers permitted to register. (Sources: “Seeking Solutions that Work," Bangkok Post, 17 September 2003; “Foreign Labors to Be Replaced by Thai Workers," Network Media Group, 13 September 2003)
· On 2 September, approximately 800 workers protested outside Ki Found Knitting Factory in Mae Sot after one of their co-workers was raped and murdered. The body of 25 year-old Tha Dar Hlaing was found about 2km from the factory. According to witnesses, she was last seen being taken away on a motorbike by the factory’s security guard. Factory workers tried to attack the guard, and when a police car came to arrest him the workers delayed the car’s departure by two hours, worried that once the car left the compound the suspect would be freed. Mae Sot police Superintendent Col Sonkran Sangkakorn reportedly promised that, “We will take action if we find he is guilty. This kind of crime deserves the death sentence...Under the law, all humans are equal.” Police did soon secure a confession from the accused, which is rare in such cases and could be attributed to the reaction of the victim’s coworkers. (Sources: “Burmese Worker Raped and Killed," Irrawaddy, 2 September 2003; “Myanmar Workers Protest Killing of Compatriot in Thailand," AP, 2 September 2003; “Abuses of Migrant Workers in Thailand,” Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), Sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, United Nations Economic and Social Council, 12 February 2004)
· From 1 to 25 September was reportedly the last chance for migrant workers to renew their work permits for a final year. During the September registration period, only 288,000 workers registered with the Labour Ministry before the deadline. The ministry estimated that more than 800,000 workers did not register. (Source: “Thailand to Crack Down on Illegal Immigrants," Xinhua, 11 November 2003)
· On 11 September, Kyauk Shaat village chairman PDC Oo Than Shein (in Yebyu Township area of Tenasserim Division) reportedly captured a migrant couple returning from Thailand and threatened to report them to military intelligence for leaving the country illegally. The couple allegedly paid 40,000 kyat to the village chairman to avoid being reported to MI. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report; Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, September 2003)
· On 17 September, the Thai labor office informed workers in newly restricted sectors in Bangkok and Chiang Mai that they would be eligible to renew their permits if they changed jobs before the end of the registration period. Workers in the border town of Mae Sot, however, were only informed of this two days before their permits expired. Workers were reportedly required to pay 455 baht to change jobs, in addition to the 3,000 baht registration fee. (Source: “Alien Workers Given Reprieve," Irrawaddy, 25 September 2003)
· On 22 September, 78 Burmese migrants were fired from Siriwat Garment factory in Mae Sot, Tak after refusing to work overtime. The factory is owned by Mr. Siriwat Paiboonpol. All of the workers had legal work permits which were held by the employer. Workers were paid 60 baht an hour and forced to work overtime for less than the minimum overtime wage. On 21 September, after several 15-hour days, the workers refused to work overtime, as they are entitled to under Thai labour laws. The factory manager made the workers sleep outside that night. On 22 September, officials from the Tak Labour Protection Welfare office, the Thai Law Society, and the Thai Human Rights Commission visited the factory. Three workers’ representatives met with the labour officials and presented the workers demands. However, the factory manager refused to contact the factory owner so the negotiations could not be made official. Instead, labour official Khun Sompong set up a formal meeting for 24 September at the Tak Labour office. The workers were promised they would be able to negotiate on that date. Once the official visitors left the factory, the manager fired all the workers and told them to leave immediately. The workers were hiding outside in the forest and with friends, fearing deportation and arrest. (Source: Action Network for Migrants, 2003)
· On 25 September, the work permits of staff at Dr. Cynthia Maung’s Mae Tao clinic expired. As per the August resolution, the medics were ineligible to renew their permits because their work does not fall into 1 of the allowable labor categories for migrant workers. On 29 September, Thai authorities reportedly visited Dr. Cynthia’s clinic in Mae Sot to explain the new regulations to her. The Mae Tao clinic provides medical assistance to migrant workers and treats up to 150 patients a day.
Following the 29 September meeting, human rights group Forum-Asia released a statement suggesting that Dr. Cynthia and her staff were at risk of deportation under the new migrant worker laws. After the release of this statement Thai Senator Kraisak Choonhavan visited the Mae Tao clinic in early October. Subsequent to his visit, he reportedly announced that the repatriation of Dr. Cynthia or her staff would damage Thailand’s image as a humanitarian country. Provincial governors denied any plans of deportation. Dr. Cynthia said she understood the concern of the NGOs, but said, “I am not worried because the Thai health department recognizes my work and its effectiveness.” Dr. Cynthia was reportedly still in negotiations with the Thai government to find a compromise. (Sources: “Mae Tao Clinic in Fine Health," Irrawaddy, 3 October 2003; “Thailand: Do Not Close Burmese Refugee Clinic," Human Rights Watch Press Release, 3 October 2003; “Senate to Fight Talk of Doctor’s Repatriation," Bangkok Post, 8 October 2003; “Rights Group Fears for Thai-Based Myanmar Refugee Doctor," AFP, 2 October 2003)
· On 9 October, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Thai government received a US$1.4 million grant to improve the health of Burmese migrants in Thailand. The funds, donated by USAID, will be divided between health care providers in the border towns in Tak and Chiang Rai provinces, with a target population of 40,000 migrant workers. (Source: “Grant for Border Health," Irrawaddy, 9 October 2003)
· On 17 October, there were reports of a major security sweep in Mae Sot that took place in preparation for the APEC summit in Bangkok. The two-day coordinated Thai-Burma operation rounded up close to 500 Burmese migrant workers and beggars, who were handed over directly to Burmese border authorities. Mae Sot District Chief Virut Phusingh said, "we are monitoring the activities of groups which are dangerous for the country," in preparation for the APEC summit. (Source: “Border Sweep Precedes Apec,” Irrawaddy, 17 October 2003)
· Also on 17 October, the Bangkok Post reported that the Thai government was planning a multi-million-baht farming, industrial and tourism development opposite Mae Sot in Myawaddy. This project is one part of the Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS) of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Burma aimed at narrowing economic gaps and encouraging foreign workers to go back to their home countries. (Source: “Border Site in Burma to Be Developed," Bangkok Post, 17 October 2003)
· In November, the National Security Council revealed plans to establish three new holding centers in the border provinces of Ranong, Tak and Chiang Rai. Each of the facilities would hold up to 5,000 people, according to the Bangkok Post. Though the centres had not yet been approved by the government, the Immigration Police Bureau confirmed that the centers would be used to hold illegal immigrants. (Source: “Illegal Workers: NSC to Build 3 Camps in Border Areas. Each to Hold At Least 5,000 Immigrants," Bangkok Post, 11 November 2003)
· On 19 November, Xinhua News Agency reported that a Thai border police officer and two accomplices were detained and arrested on charges of engaging in illegal labor activities. They were caught smuggling 14 Burmese migrants (8 men, 5 women, and a child) into Thailand, in Kanchanaburi province. The men reported that they are paid 5,000 baht for each trip trafficking trip they make. (Source: “Thai Border Police Officer Arrested for Human Smuggling,” Xinhua, 19 November 2003)
· In early November, the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB) launched a news report in Thai entitled "The Plight of Undocumented Burmese Migrant Workers in Thailand." The report explains the current situation and urges the Thai labour department to do more to help these people. The report was launched to senior civil rights groups including the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and leading Thai academics at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. In September 2003, TACDB also helped a group of registered Burmese migrant workers in Bangkok form an action group called the Social Welfare Association of People from Burma (SWAPB), which publishes a monthly newsletter for migrant workers called the "Labor Affair Newsletter." (Source: “Burmese Migrants a Thorn in the Thai Side," Kao Wao News, No. 56, 3 November 2003)
· On 17 December, over 200 Burmese migrants were arrested in Mae Sot and most were immediately deported following a police round-up at a monastery where the migrants had taken shelter following a walk-out from their jobs. They had been working for Nasawat Apparel Company, who had been paying them only 50 baht a day (the Mae Sot minimum wage is 133 baht a day) and only 8 baht an hour for overtime. The employer also kept the workers permits and allegedly forced them to sign pay slips saying they received the legal minimum wage.
Twenty-five workers represented the whole group in negotiations on 26 November with the employer and Tak Labour officials. The employer agreed to abide by legal labour standards, improve living conditions in the factory, and he also agreed that if he fired the workers or closed the factory, he would pay employees all wages owed to them. However, on 11 December, the first pay day following the agreement he refused to pay and asked the 25 workers’ representatives to accept a settlement. While the representatives were negotiating with the employer, 13 police, immigration officials, and border police arrived at the factory. When the employer refused to honor the agreement, the workers decided to walk out. They left the factory linking arms and walked to the Wat Chumpol Khiri monastery where they were given shelter. While at the monastery, the workers began to complete labour protection complaints forms (kor ror 7) to start legal proceedings to claim back-wages owed to them.
According to witnesses, dozens of police, border patrol and labour officials entered the monastery on 16 December and rounded up the migrants. Four local support workers giving first aid to the workers were reportedly arrested as well. All of the arrested migrants were taken to the IDC. On 17 December, the 200 workers with legal work permits were deported, while the unregistered workers were taken to court to testify against their employer for hiring illegal workers. Most were fined and then deported, but 16 were held at the IDC.
On 26 December, 257 of the workers filed their official labour complaints (kor ror 7) with the Labour Protection Office in Mae Sot.
In January 2004, the Labour Protection Office found that the migrant workers had been paid below the minimum wage and overtime rate, not given public holidays and days off, and that 25 workers had been fired without due reason. In all, the factory conditions were in violation of 12 articles of the 1998 Labor Protection Act (Articles 17, 28, 29, 30. 56, 61, 62, 63. 64, 67, 70 and 90).
The Tak Labour Protection Office issued an order on 25 March 2004 to the Nasawat Apparel Co. to pay US$425,000 (16,136,076 baht) to the 257 migrant workers. Mr Kwanjai Wimut-tee, employer of the 257 migrant workers at Nasawat Apparel Co. Ltd, was given 15 days to pay the US$425,000 or appeal and place the money with interest with the Labour Court. At the time of writing, the workers were still engaged in legal proceedings while residing in safe houses. The employer had not yet paid the compensation and had gone into hiding. (Sources: Action Network for Migrants; “Raid Migrants in Mae Sot," Irrawaddy, 16 December 2003; “Thailand Deports 200 Myanmar Migrants over Labour Row," AFP, 18 December 2003)
The Malaysian Government estimated in August 2002 that there were approximately 16,000 people from Burma working legally in the country. The majority of Burmese migrants work in Malaysia’s construction, garment and food processing industries, and are reportedly paid more than 700 RM (about US$184) per month (source: Xinhua, 2002). Other sources report that there are upwards of 750,000 undocumented workers in Malaysia, including many who earn well below the legal minimum wage. According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 15,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, and according to the Chin Refugee Centre there are about 5,000 Chin migrants in Malaysia. Members of both these ethnic groups face serious human rights abuses and specifically, religious persecution in Burma.
Malaysia has not ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, and the Malaysian government does not, for the most part, differentiate between refugees and migrant workers. Under immigration policy all undocumented people are considered as “illegal immigrants” and these people are subjected to harsh and arbitrary immigration laws. Due to their undocumented status, migrants are vulnerable to extortion from police and government agencies, harassment, and exploitation in their work.
Work is somewhat scarce for undocumented people in Malaysia because employers are reluctant to hire them without papers. The work they can find is often daily work for daily pay and offers little security. According to one source, some Burmese working in Malaysia go unpaid for months at time yet they have no legal recourse against their employers. Undocumented workers also lack access to basic health care and education services. Further, according to Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a Malaysian human rights NGO, Burmese immigrants to Malaysia are demonized in the mainstream media, portrayed as parasites and law-breakers who contribute to crime and poverty in the country. SUARAM notes that, “Issues of supply and demand of foreign workers in Malaysia and their contribution to the economy, the smuggling syndicate of foreign workers, exploitation of these workers and conflict situation or persecution giving rise to refugees fleeing their home countries are almost always absent in the mainstream discussion.” (Source: “Overview of the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia," Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), delivered at the Regional Conference on the Protection of Refugees from Burma, 6-7 November 2003)
In August 2002, the Malaysian Parliament implemented new laws for immigrants, including the allowance of jailing and caning for people caught without proper entry documents. Those found to have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas are liable to a maximum fine of 10,000 RM (US$2,600), a jail term of up to 5 years and up to 6 strokes of a cane. Those who shelter undocumented persons are also subject to severe punishments. In April 2003, a decrease in the number of illegal immigrants was reported since implementation of the new laws, under which an estimated 9,000 undocumented people had been caned. Deputy Home Minister Chor Chee Heung told the Parliament that, “Operations and raids will continue to ensure that we further reduce the number of illegal immigrants. If we do not take action, the security of the country may be jeopardised.”(Source: “Overview of the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia," SUARAM, delivered at the Regional Conference on the Protection of Refugees from Burma, 6-7 November 2003)
Further, since the policy changes in 2002, undocumented people who are arrested are often detained in detention camps for an unspecified length of time rather than being immediately deported. If a person wants to arrange a ‘quicker’ deportation, their family or friends must pay their return fare to Burma. Otherwise, they are held in the detention centre until a mass deportation can be organized. According to SUARAM, there have been “severe reports of assault, sexual abuse, inadequate living conditions, lack of medical treatment and even death while in detention.” Some Burmese migrants have been held for up to a year or longer in these overcrowded prisons. (Source: “Overview of the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia," SUARAM, delivered at the Regional Conference on the Protection of Refugees from Burma, 6-7 November 2003)
On 4 June, seven Burmese migrants were deported after their Penang-based employer cancelled their work permits. The seven were among a group of 25 who had been encouraged to come to Malaysia by a recruitment agent in Burma, who promised that their monthly wages would not be less than 700 RM (US$184). The agreements had not been signed by the employer however, and in fact the workers only earned between 100-200 RM (US$26 - US$52) a month. Further, 50 percent of their pay was deducted to repay the government loans that had financed their trip to Malaysia. After the workers asked the Labor Department for assistance, seven of the workers were fired and deported. The reason given by the employer for the dismissal was that the workers were not skilled enough. (Source: "Burmese Deported after Labor Complaint," InterPress, 12 June 2003)
15.4 Burmese Migrants in Japan
There are an estimated 10,000 Burmese people living in Japan, according to Tokyo-based group, People’s Forum on Burma. More than half of these people either entered the country illegally to find work or entered legally and overstayed their visas. Burmese migrants living in Japan are required to pay a monthly tax of 10,000 yen (US$93) to the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo, and another 8,000 yen (US$74) for their spouses. They are required to pay this amount regardless of their income or whether or not they have visas.
Due to the high cost of the tariff, many undocumented Burmese migrants in Japan do not pay regularly. However, if these workers want to return to Burma at any time, they must go to the Myanmar Embassy to obtain the necessary documents, which often include passports. Workers who have not paid the tax are subject to back payments which can add up to enormous sums of money. According to Burmese workers in Tokyo, if a worker cannot pay the money the embassy delays the application or refuses to accept it at all. These workers are thus stuck without visas to stay in Japan legally or documents to return home, and they are forced to live either in detention centres in Japan or live marginally, often without access to social security protection.
The situation in Japan is particularly difficult for elderly people and those with serious illnesses such as AIDS who wish to return home to die. Taeko Kimura, the director of Friendly Asians Home, indicated that an increasing number of Burmese people are dying in Japan without money to return home or health insurance to pay for their medical expenses. She reported that at least fifteen people in this situation had died in the past year, including nine people with AIDS.
15.5 Burmese Migrants in India
On 31 July, Mizzima news reported that Burmese migrants were being repatriated in large numbers from the Indian State of Mizoram. The repatriation occurred after a Burmese migrant reportedly raped a nine year old Mizo girl on 17 July. Approximately 1,320 Burmese migrants had reached the border where they were being granted re-entry by the Burmese authorities. Those found without national identity cards were fined on the spot. Burmese migrants living in Chandmari, where the incident took place, were required to leave immediately, while others were given from five days to a month to relocate. A Burmese weaver in Mizoram reported that only one-quarter of the total number of weavers remained in Mizoram, only days after the repatriation began. It was unclear whether or not the work permits of registered migrant workers would be renewed or replaced. The repatriation orders were given by the local Young Mizo Association (Y.M.A) and the Mizoram District Council (M.D.C.) rather than the State Government. (Source: “Mass Repatriation of Burmese Migrants," Mizzima, 31 July 2003) (See chapter on refugees for more information.)
15.6 Burmese Migrants in Singapore
For decades, Burmese migrants have worked legally in Singapore. The number of Burmese in Singapore began increasing in the mid 1980’s as a result of the country’s construction boom and simultaneous labor shortage. Some Burmese migrants in Singapore are highly educated and have obtained work as doctors and professors. However the majority of Burmese workers labor in low-level jobs including construction work, carpentry, welding, and painting.
Before January 1998, travel to Singapore was facilitated by the fact that Burmese could obtain a visa-on-arrival for a seven-day stay. Currently, however, Burmese must apply for visas from the Singapore embassy in Rangoon. People who wish to get a work visa must provide a work permit and a sponsor letter, documents that are only available through naturalized Singapore citizens, Burmese with Permanent Resident (PR) status, or to those who already have been granted an official Employee Pass (EP).
Only educated individuals are eligible to receive Singaporean work visas, and the prerequisites for an EP include a university degree from Burma or enrollment in one of Singapore’s polytechnic schools. Visa applicants who have no one to sponsor them have to leave a deposit of 2,000 Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs) in addition to the 18 FEC visa fee. (One FEC is approximately 960 kyat). Individuals who overstay their visa lose this deposit.
For many people, these fees are only part of the money they must spend to obtain a permit to legally work in Singapore. In Rangoon, job broker agencies connected to Singapore businesses charge high fees to facilitate the bureaucratic process of obtaining a work visa. These agencies charge between 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 kyat to arrange for applicants’ passports, air tickets, and job training that can last up to six months. Some migrants find that it can take up to eight months after this initial payment before they arrive in Singapore and begin to work off this debt. There are also a large number of fly-by-night brokers who frequently swindle people out of their money. For the majority of Burmese citizens, these high visa costs effectively prevent them from being able to pursue the option of working legally in Singapore.
While legal workers in Singapore earn vastly more than they could in Burma, their expenses can also be very high. Legal workers make an average of about S$16 (9,200 kyat) per day, while more skilled workers earn slightly more. Burmese workers make about S$600 (345,000 kyat) per month, with basic living costs running from S$80-100. In addition The SPDC charges citizens a 10% tax on overseas earnings and workers must also pay a flat tax of S$30 to the Singapore government. If workers need to renew their passports they must pay the Burmese government S$300 and replacing a worn or lost passport costs S$1,400.
The majority of illegal Burmese migrants arrive in Singapore as stowaways on ships. These workers generally undertake menial labor in restaurants, factories, and on construction sites. Without legal status they are often forced to pay inflated rent costs form corrupt landlords and can be subjected to arbitrary arrest by officials, even in their own homes. Burmese arrested in Singapore for illegal entry are repatriated back to Burma, provided they have the money to pay the transport costs. If arrested migrants do not have this money, then they’re forced to stay in prison and work until they are able to earn the money needed. It has been reported that migrants caught working illegally have also been subjected to caning, a legal form of punishment in Singapore. (Source: "Laboring in the Lion City," Irrawaddy, October 2002)
Table of Content Facts on Human Rights Violations in Burma 2003