Monday, June 15, 2009

2nd Two Destinations One Origin Conference held

2nd Two Destinations One Origin Conference held
Monday, 15 June 2009 04:55

Thailand based NGOs and community based organizations in Malaysia got together to hold the second “Two Destinations One Origin Conference” from 5th to 7th June, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The participants from different organizations in both Thailand and Malaysia mainly discussed migrant workers’ issues and shared their experiences about migrant issues.

In an interview last Friday 12th June 2009, Ms. Po Po, the deputy director of Grassroots – HRE based in Phang Nga province of South Thailand, shared what she discussed in the conference.

Q. Which NGOs organized the second “Two Destinations One Origin Conference”?

A. Thailand based Migrant Assistant Programme (MAP) Foundation and Malaysia based Workers Hub for Change and Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM) organized the programme together.

Q. How many social organizations in Malaysia attended the conference?

A. National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) Malaysia, Burma Campaign Malaysia, Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM), Multination Women’s Organization of Burma, Myanmar Refugee Volunteer Group (MRVG) and a Shan Refugee Organization attended the conference. Thailand based MAP Foundation and Malaysia based Workers Hub for Change also attended the conference.

Q. What did you discuss in the conference?

A. We mainly discussed the situation of migrant workers in both Thailand and Malaysia. All the NGOs and organizations at the conference mutually evaluated the problem that migrants have to face and encounter during the global economic crisis and the policies and principles that the respective governments coded for migrant workers.

Q. What topics did the Malaysia based community organizations discuss in the conference?

A. They discussed workers’ rights, for example, how the Malaysian outsourcing companies and firm owners oppress and exploit legal migrant workers and how the migrant workers have their rights abused. We discussed these issues very clearly so they could be understood in detail. Following that, the Malaysian based organizations could effectively exchange information about how the migrant workers in Malaysian detention and deportation centers are being oppressed by authorities in those centers. In my opinion, the Malaysia based organizations are working the best they can but I think that if they put in stronger efforts to work in balance and harmony within their networks, they’d find a better way to solve the problem of migrants.

Q. Did you discuss the recent death of two Burmese migrant workers in a Malaysian detention center at the conference?

A. Yes, we mentioned this case as an example when we were discussing our future action plan about how we can work with the respective authorities for fair and just detention and deportation. The issue of how to stop detentions and deportations has been published in Mek Khong migration publications. As a consequence, we must share this knowledge among the workers’ environment so that they know what their rights are. Then they themselves can call for their rights to be respected and we can increase pressure on the government through united efforts. We talked a lot about this.

Q. I heard a joint statement was issued after the conference. What did you call on in the statement?

A. We called on the Malaysian government to immediately stop the unjust, discriminatory and unconstitutional policy and practice, known as ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ (FWFO) principle. According to this policy migrant workers must lose their jobs before local workers regardless of the length of time they’ve been in the job and we called on Malaysia and Thailand to demand that all employers fulfill their contractual agreements with regard to all workers, including foreign workers. Employers must not use the economic crisis as an excuse to dismiss workers or close down factories without adequate notice to the workers. Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that employers pay workers adequate and just compensation for any early termination of employment agreement.

Q. Where did you send it to, to which authorized organizations?

A. The statement is currently only in the hands of NGOs. But, we’ll send it to the Thai government, Malaysian government and the ASEAN.

Q. May I know how your organization is working with the networks of Malaysia based organizations?

A. This is the first time that I attended the conference of our networks. Grassroots – HRE works together with Action Network for Migrants (ANM), the Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM) and other Thailand and Malaysia based organizations which are working for migrants in both countries. However, this year we discussed becoming a stronger network for the welfare of our people, how we can support the migrants and each other, how we can approach the governments and how to work towards changing their principles and policy of migrant workers. However, at this initial stage we could only exchange our experiences and give advice to each other. We talked about linking with more networks to become a better, stronger one.

Q. How will you keep on your work as an NGO based in Thailand with the connection of Malaysia based organizations?

A. We’ll keep putting pressure on the governments. We’ll work and coordinate with local organizations in Malaysia. We’ll let the two governments know about the situation of migrant workers and their issues. We’ll call on the ASEAN to also put pressure on the two governments. We hope that our efforts concerning the migrant issue will catch the interest of international governments.

Q. Grassroots – HRE is a legally registered non-government organization in Thailand. The Malaysia based organizations are not legally registered ones so they may face some difficulties in their work. As deputy director of Grassroots-HRE do you have an opinion on this or any advice to give?

A. Yes, they might have some difficulties. The organizations themselves are not in documented status. It is very difficult for such organizations to help undocumented migrant workers. I understand their situation. However, if all the organizations connect with each other and work together in unity they’ll be able to help to some degree. At the same time, the undocumented ones need to organize and stimulate the registered ones to work and support them.

Q. Do you have anything else to say to the Burmese migrant workers in Malaysia?

A. I don’t want to separate the workers in Thailand or in Malaysia as they are all the same. The Burmese migrant workers are spreading out to different places in the countries. Although I’m talking about the workers in Malaysia and Thailand, I also want to urge all the workers in the other countries to unite and help each other, try to know your rights and call on governments to respect your rights. If you yourself don’t stand up for your rights, who will stand up for you? If someone else defends your rights on your behalf, there chance of achieving our goal is reduced. I want to urge them all to unite and work in balance and harmony.

Source: Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development Website

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