Interview with U Aung Kyaw, the chairman of Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)

Employment opportunity for Myanmar migrant workers has declined after the military coup, while  illegal migration  frequently occurred almost every day through border crossings to Thailand as a result of political and military situations.

At the moment, illegal migrant workers were abandoned by the labour workers in the forest and were arrested frequently. 

The interview with U Aung Kyaw, the chairman of MWRN, talked about the risks of Myanmar migrant workers who entered Thailand through border crossings, their employment opportunity and their abandonment in the forest.

TLT: Could you talk about the arrest of Myanmar migrant workers who illegally entered Thailand through border crossings?

U Aung Kyaw: Illegal migration through border crossings was taking place in January and February as employment opportunity has declined in Myanmar. Political turmoil in Myanmar is leading to illegal migration with labour brokers.

Arrest of these workers were frequently covered in Thai media. Destination of some illegal migrants was Thailand, while some others were arrested in the kingdom as they tried to cross Malaysian border. We cannot get exact data because border with Thailand is over 2,000 kilometer long. In adverage, it is estimated that about 4,000 migrants illegal entered Thailand each month.

TLT: It was reportedly known that some Myanmar migrant workers were abandoned in southern Thailand? Could you talk about this?

U Aung Kyaw: Some migrant workers were arrested while they were travelling, and some were abandoned by the job brokers in the forests, failing to meet their agreement for sending the migrants to respective jobs.  Thai people reported to their authorities when they found illegal migrants, but the brokers could escape.

TLT: Some migrant workers under MoU system have lost their labour rights such as unemployment and no wage in accordance with their contract. What is the development about this?

U Aung Kyaw: It is highly regrettable. Under the MoU system, the contracted migrant workers do not need to wait for the job in Thailand. However, unreliable Myanmar and Thai employment agencies have not already sought the jobs for these workers. It is very terrible situation.

I advised that our citizens should officially go to Thailand or Malaysia for job under MoU system to be able to enjoy their labour rights. However, the migrant workers under this system do not secure job at present. So, the potential migrant workers should know the background of agencies before signing contracts.

TLT: How is MWRN educating the migrant workers?

U Aung Kyaw: Since we established our organization, we are helping factory workers to secure labour rights in Thailand,  and disseminated knowledge to the migrant workers about the risks of illegal border crossings. We educated labour rights both   employers and employees. When they reported to us about their difficulties, we arranged discussions with Thai government officials. We also help the migrant workers in their personal issues.

TLT: What is you conclusion remark on the current affairs of Myanmar migrant workers?

U Aung Kyaw: I do not recommend illegal migration to Thailand. It cost about 25,000 to 30,000 baht. It is very expensive in Myanmar currency and no guarantee for their safety. As Thai government has suspended issuing work permit at present, they will have to live in undocumented status. It is very risky for them. So I advised them to contact with reliable employment agencies to secure job.

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