Burmese migrants working in Thailand and Malaysia have released a joint statement on the impact of the global economic crisis on Burmese migrant workers, urging relevant governments to address their concerns.
Burmese migrants, support groups, trade union leaders, human rights activists and lawyers from Thailand and Malaysia noted in a statement released on Tuesday following a conference in Bangkok that the Thai and Malaysian governments’ response to the situation of migrant workers affected by the economic crisis has not been comprehensive, failing to provide adequate protection for workers.
“Migrant workers are not even included in these [economic assistance] programs and are thus expected to deal with the impact of the economic crisis by themselves,” according to the release.
“Employers must not use the economic crisis as an excuse to dismiss workers or close down factories without adequate notice to the workers,” added the group.
They also noted that employers currently fail to adequately compensate migrant workers, calling for the establishment of a mechanism to ensure just compensation in addition to appealing for equal access to programs aimed at lessening hardship stemming from the economic crisis.
Specifically, the group seeks the abolition of Malaysia’s ‘Foreign Workers First Out’ principle – a policy necessitating migrant workers lose their jobs before local workers in times of crisis regardless of time on the job.
Burmese migrants in both Malaysia and Thailand have also reported accidents in the workplace due to sub-standard occupational health and safety standards and enforcement.
“The governments of Thailand and Malaysia should ensure that employers do not take shortcuts on matters concerning health and safety of workers and facilitate migrants’ access to the legal mechanisms to receive compensation when accidents do occur,” argues the consortium.
Further, due to the undocumented status of many parents, migrant children often have difficulty in accessing education. As a result, the group calls for the governments of both countries to support the education of migrant children in both formal and non-formal education systems.
The group is additionally concerned for those migrants lacking official status or without full status. In such an atmosphere, without proper protective mechanisms in place, it is said migrants can be subjected to the arbitrary decisions or desires of employers and governments alike.
Because of their lack of protection, migrants face an increased risk of arrest, detention and deportation. “We are deeply concerned about the recent reports of deaths of migrants in detention in Malaysia, deaths which could have been avoided with proper access to health care,” stipulate the aggrieved.
The statement concluded by calling for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its constituent parts to abandon their constructive engagement policy toward the Burmese regime which, they contend, serves merely to prolong the injustice in Burma.
The joint declaration followed the second Two Destinations One Origin Conference organized by the MAP Foundation (Thailand), Workers Hub for Change (WH4C) and Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM).
Source: Mizzima, 10/6/2009, Burmese migrants in Thailand and Malaysia demand equal rights