Saturday, February 20, 2010

56 Groups Open Letter To ASEAN regarding worker's struggle in Burma

Open Letter
19 February 2010

Dr Surin Pitsuwan,
Secretary General of ASEAN,
The ASEAN Secretariat,
70A Jl. Sisingamangaraja,
Jakarta 12110 , Indonesia
Tel : (6221) 7262991, 7243372
Fax : (6221) 7398234, 7243504

Heads of Government of
Brunei Darussalam , Cambodia , Indonesia ,
Lao PDR, Malaysia , Burma ( Myanmar ), Philippines ,
Singapore, Thailand & Viet Nam ,
c/o Secretary General of ASEAN

Dear Sirs/Madam,

Re:      Justice for Workers in Burma
            3,600 Workers Protest for Worker Rights – February 2010

On 8/2/2010, about 3,600 factory workers, mostly women, from 3 factories in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Rangoon , Burma , protested against low wages and the substandard working conditions they are forced to endure in the factories.

It was reported that the workers at the Taiyee shoe factory and the Opal 2 garment factory began protests on Monday calling for higher daily wages, overtime payments and several other demands. On Tuesday, workers from the Kya Lay garment factory joined the strike action.

The workers, mostly women, staged protests outside the factories and inside a factory compound, where they sat down and refused to work. The three factories employ a total of about 3,600 workers.

The monthly income of most factory workers in Burma is very low, ranging from 20,000 kyat [USD20] to 40,000 kyat [USD40], thus forcing many workers to work overtime. Most workers work from 7 am to 11 pm daily. Many factory owners employ temporary workers who have no legal recourse if they are fired without compensation, according to former factory workers in Rangoon . More than 80 percent of factory workers in Rangoon work on a day-to-day basis. Most are young women between 15 and 27 years of age who come from the countryside in search of a better living.
[The Irrawaddy, Authorities Threaten Violence at Rangoon Strike –]

The workers’ demands in these actions, for example, with regard to wages, as was reported, are for a mere USD10 increase per month.

The Burmese government’s response to this legitimate industrial action by workers was excessive and oppressive It was reported that, the “…Authorities used barbed wire barricades to block roads leading to the factories in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in the city's north-east, and more than 50 truckloads of riot police carrying batons and shields were deployed and at least six fire engines and five prison vans were parked near the factories…” [AP - Straits Times, 10/2/2010, Myanmar workers on strike]

Today (19/2/2010) although the workers are back in the factories, they continue demanding for their rights. In Burma , they are even more vulnerable and powerless without a change in the existing laws to allow the right to assembly and to allow workers the right to form unions.

Burma is a member of ASEAN, and as such we call upon ASEAN and all ASEAN member countries to do the needful to ensure that workers in Burma, just like other workers in other ASEAN countries, also receive just wages, have a safe and healthy working environment, enjoy the right to form unions and all other universally acknowledged worker and human rights.

We also call on ASEAN, and ASEAN member countries to closely monitor the current situation at the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone, and ensure that these workers rights are recognized and respected, and that the Burmese government refrains from further interfering in this pursuit of rights by workers in Burma .

Further, on 23 October 2009, the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN presided over the Inaugural Ceremony of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), during which they also announced the “Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on the Inauguration of the AICHR” to pledge full support to this new ASEAN body and emphasize their commitment to further develop cooperation to promote and protect human rights in the region.

Noting that the primary purpose of the AICHR is to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN, we hope that the AICHR will begin proving that it is not merely a toothless tiger by ensuring that the human rights of these workers in Burma are promoted and protected.

Many ASEAN member countries, like Malaysia , Singapore and Thailand , invest significantly in Burma . We hope that these economic and other self-interest considerations will not affect the way ASEAN, and its member nations, response to human rights violations of the ordinary people and workers in ASEAN.

I look forward to hearing your response,

Yours sincerely,

Pranom Somwong
Charles Hector
3585A Kg Lubuk Layang,
Batu 3, Jalan Mentakab,
28000 Temerloh, Pahang, Malaysia. Tel+60192371300
For and on behalf of the 56 Organizations/groups listed below:-

All Kachin Students and Youth Union
All Burma Federation of Student Unions (Foreign Affairs' Committee)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and development (APWLD)
Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
Asian Migrants Center(AMC)
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) – Youth and Women
Amnesty International Philippines
Batis Aware, Philippines
Burma Global Action Network
Burmese Women's Union (BWU)
Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan
Burma Campaign , Malaysia
Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB)
Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) Philippines
Center for Overseas Workers (COW)
Coalition against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific
Chin Democracy and Human Rights Network ( South Korea )
Civil Society Committee of LLG Cultural Development Centre Bhd(LLGCSC),                 Malaysia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM) Asia
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS)
Empower Foundation , Thailand
Free Burma Coalition Philippines (FBC-Philippines)
Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (Women's Committee)
Foundation for Education and Development, Thailand
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB)
Human Rights and Development Foundation ( Thailand )
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
JERIT (Oppressed People's Network , Malaysia )
Kachin Development Networking Group
Labour Behind the Label, United Kingdom
MAP Foundation , Thailand
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
MSC/NWC-  Sri Lanka , 
MAKALAYA (Women Workers Network)
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Network for Democracy and Development
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (Socialist Party of Malaysia , PSM)
Pagkakaisa ng Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan (KAISA-KA)
Piglas Kababaihan
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM - Workers' Party)
Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade union (MTU), Korea
Studio Xang Art for Migrant Children, Thailand
Thai Labour Campaign (TLC), Thailand
Think Center ( Singapore )
The Action Network for Migrants (ANM), Thailand
The Shan Refugee Organization (SRO), Malaysia
Task Force on ASEAN and Burma (TFAB)
Worker Hub for Change (WH4C)
Women Health, Philippines
World March for Women - Philippines
c.c.     Workers in Burma -

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another Strike in Rangoon, as Labor Unrest Continues

And even more workers in Burma are demanding for their rights...

See earlier posts:-In support of Burmese workers struggle for worker rights

In a sign of growing labor unrest, garment factory workers in Rangoon launched a sit-in strike on Wednesday evening to call for a pay increase and better working conditions. Security has been tightened around the affected factory area, with about 15 riot police trucks deployed.

The strike started around 4 pm yesterday at the Sky garment factory in the western part of Insein Township in Rangoon, and about 100 factory workers participated in the strike, calling for an increase in basic salary, better overtime pay and days off on public holidays, a local resident said. 

Workers at the Opal garment factory in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, where strikes took place last week. (  

“The problem still continues in that factory,” confirmed a senior official from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), adding that government officials, factory owners and workers are now negotiating over the workers' demands.

The event follows last week's labor strikes by thousands of factory workers in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, about 11 km from the center of Rangoon. The government sent hundreds of riot police to the area. The workers were demanding an increase of 10,000 kyat (US $10) in salary and ended the strike after employers agreed to pay half the amount. 

“The workers want an increase of 100 kyat ($0.10) for overtime pay and an increase of basic salary,” said a local resident, adding that riot police trucks, a police custody van and a fire engine are still deployed near the factory. 

The official from the UMFCCI said that the unrest is related to recent pay hikes for government employees. Public servants' monthly salaries were raised by a flat rate of 20,000 kyat ($20) in January.

Rangoon sources said that workers in garment factories in other townships have also been demanding increased pay, and the factory owners agreed to talk over the demand, telling them not to launch a strike and contact the media. - The Irrawaddy, 17/2/2010, Another Strike in Rangoon, as Labor Unrest Continues

In support of Burmese workers struggle for worker rights

Standing up for your rights takes a lot of courage - and there is always risks involved. 

And in a country like Burma (Myanmmar), under a 'notorious' military junta, it really takes even more uts for people to stand up for their rights...and it was recently reported that Burmese workers have decided to stand up in 2 factories...

And the government's response was to send '....more than 50 truckloads of riot police carrying batons and shields were deployed and at least six fire engines and five prison vans...'.

We call on the Burmese military government not to 'crackdown' on the workers, who have every right to demand their rights. It is hoped that the workers demands are given due consideration - and that they be paid a reasonable wage. 
Low wages, poor inhumane working conditions, etc are some of the reasons why so many people of Burma have fled to neighbouring Thailand and Malaysia.

ASEAN should maybe step in, to ensure that their member, the Burmese military government, do not further stifle the rights of these workers. Trade Unions from fellow ASEAN nations, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and others should also press for a fair resolution of what really is a dispute between workers and the employer. Better wages and better working conditions are long overdue in Burma...

Myanmar workers on strike

Truckloads of riot police carrying shields are parked on a road leading to Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Myanmar. Myanmar's military government tightened security at the industrial zone where factory workers were staging a rare strike for better pay. -- PHOTO: AP

YANGON (Myanmar) - MYANMAR'S military government tightened security on Wednesday at an industrial zone in Yangon where factory workers were staging a rare strike for better pay. 

Protests of any kind are unusual in Myanmar, where the junta does not tolerate dissent. 

Authorities used barbed wire barricades to block roads leading to the factories in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in the city's north-east, and more than 50 truckloads of riot police carrying batons and shields were deployed and at least six fire engines and five prison vans were parked near the factories. 

Workers at the Taiyee shoe factory and the Opal 2 garment factory began protests on Monday calling for higher daily wages, overtime payments and several other demands, said an official from the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The labour action spread to the Kya Lay garment factory on Tuesday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information. 

The workers, mostly women, staged protests outside the factories and inside a factory compound, where they sat down and refused to work. The three factories employ a total of about 3,600 workers. 

The official said factory owners and Labour Ministry officials were trying to settle the dispute, and some factories near those on strike had been closed to prevent the labour agitation from spreading. -- AP - Straits Times, 10/2/2010, Myanmar workers on strike

Around 2000 textile factory workers in Rangoon started striking on Monday evening, demanding a pay increase and reduced working hours.

Eye-witnesses said the situation is still tense with more than 30 riot police trucks and several fire engines stationed inside the factory zone. 

The strike started in the Mya Fashion garment factory in No. 3 Factory Zone of Rangoon's Hlaing Tharyar Township. The workers are demanding an increase in salary of 10,000 kyat (US$ 10), a reduction of working hours and the provision of a clean space for meals. Workers from nearby factories have reportedly joined the strike. 

Blocked by riot police trucks, fire engines and police custody vans, striking workers have been prevented from leaving the factory zone and no one has been allowed to enter, sources in Rangoon said. 

According to the latest reports, members of Union Solidarity and Development Association, a junta-backed organization have also arrived at the scene, and the strike continues. The workers have been warned to disperse peacefully or face a violent crackdown. 

The workers have to work from 7 am to 11 pm daily. In December, nearly 1,000 textile workers in Hlaing Tharyar staged a demonstration. Government officials were involved in negotiations with the workers over their demands, though it remains unclear as to how the issue was resolved.
The monthly income of most factory workers in Burma ranges from 20,000 kyat [$20] to 40,000 kyat [$40], forcing many to work overtime. Many factory owners employ temporary workers who have no legal recourse if they are fired without compensation, according to former factory workers in Rangoon.

More than 80 percent of factory workers in Rangoon work on a day-to-day basis. Most are young women between 15 and 27 years of age who come from the countryside in search of a better living.- The Irrawaddy, 9/2/2010, Authorities Threaten Violence at Rangoon Strike

Monday, February 15, 2010

Open Letter of Concern for the Safety and Security Of Migrant Workers in Thailand - 16/2/2010

Open Letter of Concern for the Safety and Security
Of Migrant Workers in Thailand

                                                                                                            Tuesday 16th February 2010

To: The Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned for the safety of over 2 million migrants from Burma, Cambodia and Laos working in Thailand who may face deportation after 28th February 2010. Over 80% of these migrants originate from Burma and face ethnic and political conflict as well as continuing economic deterioration in their homeland, which is controlled by a military government.

Most migrants from Thailand’s neighbouring countries entered Thailand without documentation, but are permitted to work temporarily pending deportation by the Royal Thai Government (RTG). This temporary permission has been extended on a year to year basis in recognition that migrants fill important gaps in the labour force and strengthen the Thai economy.

On 19th January 2010, the Thai Cabinet issued a resolution linking extension of migrant work permits to nationality verification (NV). For over 1.3 million migrants who received permits during 2009 and are willing to submit biographical information to their home governments prior to 28th February 2010, they will receive permission to remain and work in Thailand until 28th February 2012 so NV can be completed. However, migrants who do not enter NV and all undocumented migrants (estimated to be around 1 million persons) shall be deported after 28th February 2010.

We appreciate the importance RTG attaches to enacting workable migration policies and we support exploration of ideas such as NV for formalising irregular migration flows between countries. But we also believe migration policies must be carefully planned to ensure protection of migrants’ human rights. For this reason, we are deeply concerned the Cabinet’s 19th January 2010 resolution responds neither realistically nor appropriately to the situation of migrants in Thailand.

Accordingly, we request your urgent consideration of the following recommendations:

NV Deadlines, Processes and Deportations

·    RTG should extend the 28th February 2010 deadline for migrants to enter NV and immediately cease threats of mass deportation
Threatening migrants to comply with this imminent deadline or face deportation disregards the challenging situation faced by migrants from Burma. If mass deportation is carried out it will serve only to harm businesses reliant on migrant labour. This deadline neither persuades nor assists migrants or employers to enter NV, nor does it allow sufficient time for awareness raising on NV and its benefits. We have received reports that migrants are confused by and afraid of this deadline, so some are filling in false information on NV forms to ensure they may remain in Thailand, thereby compromising the future success of the process. Other migrants are preparing to go into the underground economy to avoid NV.

·    RTG should regulate services by brokers assisting migrants and employers with NV
The failure to regulate NV brokers has allowed unscrupulous agents to exploit migrants by charging excessive costs for processing NV applications. Fees charged by these brokers should be capped at significantly lower levels than currently charged, and the RTG should compel agencies processing NV applications to register with the Department of Employment. The RTG should set up mechanisms to receive complaints from migrants in cases of exploitation. Migrants and employers should be able to safely and effectively navigate NV themselves or choose services from an open field of brokers with competitive rates.  

·    RTG should continue to negotiate with Burmese authorities to conduct NV in Thailand
NV should be conducted in Thailand to simplify and speed up the process, as well as to remove unnecessary expenses, increase safety of migrants and encourage other migrants to enter the process.

·    Ministry of Labour (MoL) should work with migrant support organisations to conduct awareness raising on NV
Raising awareness of migrants and employers on NV and its benefits is urgently needed in all ethnic languages and in Thai. To facilitate this communication with migrants in a format that is easy for them to understand, RTG should seek assistance from experienced migrant support organisations working closely with migrant communities who can provide effective supplemental channels of communication to migrants.

·    RTG should start interactive discussion to find permanent solutions for migrants who cannot enter into or complete NV
RTG should urgently start inclusive discussions with all stakeholders on the real possibility that there may be significant numbers of migrants who are either unwilling or unable to complete NV. RTG should listen to the needs of all these individuals concerned and reach out to migrant support organisations for advice and assistance. RTG’s international humanitarian obligations to those facing extreme situations of political and ethnic conflict should remain a paramount consideration.

Migrant Registration

·    RTG should re-open migrant registration to allow all migrants to enter NV
At least 1 million migrants are currently excluded from NV because they are unregistered workers or children/dependents of registered migrants. RTG should consider urgently opening up a new migrant registration round to provide these migrants with the right to register and enter the NV process, thereby allowing all migrants in Thailand the opportunity to apply for NV.   

Forced Labour

·    Migrants who receive permission to work in Thailand should be able to freely change employers to prevent exploitation and forced labour
The Cabinet’s latest resolution restricts rights of migrants to change employers beyond limited situations including gross exploitation and violence. Some employers will use this policy to impose sub-standard working and living conditions upon migrants, and such practices could result in conditions equivalent to forced labour. Restricting migrants’ right to work freely chosen constitutes a violation of the RTG’s international human and labour rights obligations.

We believe respect for the fundamental rights of migrant workers must be central to the management of migration in Thailand. Migration policies should also take into careful consideration the real economic situation and continuing need for migrant labour. We hope that the RTG will provide a speedy and amenable response to the above recommendations, given the urgency of this issue and the impending 28th February 2010 deadline.
Yours respectfully,

Mr. Sawit Keawan
(General Secretary: The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation)

Ms. Wiliawan Saetia
(President: The Thai Labour Solidarity Committee)

Mr. Adisorn Kedmongkol
(Representative: Migrant Working Group)

      Mr. Bundit Panwiset
     (General Secretary: Action Network for Migrants)

Contact Information:
111 Suthisarnwinichi Rd., Samsennok, Huaykwang, Bangkok 10320
Tel: (+662) 693 4939, 693 4831 Fax: (+662) 275 3954                      

·    Chairperson, Alien Workers Management Committee
·    Secretary, National Security Council
·    Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
·    Minister of Labour
·    Minister of Interior
·    Minister of Foreign Affairs
·    Minister of Industry
·    Minister of Defence
·    Commander of the Office of Immigration
·    Chairperson, Senate Sub-Committee on Labour and Social Welfare
·    Chairperson, House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Labour
·    Chairperson, National Economic and Social Advisory Committee

Signatory Support
Human Rights and Development Foundation, Thailand (HRDF)
Human Rights Watch, New York
IUF - International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations
ICEM - International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions
BWI - Building and Wood Workers International
UNI Global Union
IMF - International Metalworkers Federation
American Center for International Labor Solidarity (SC)
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Asia Monitoring Resource Centre (AMRC)
Migrant Forum in Asia
General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT)
Association of Indonesia Trade Unions (ASPEK Indonesia)
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Thailand
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)
Burma Lawyers Council
Altsean Burma
Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB)
Mekong Ecumenical Partnership Program
Christian Conference of Asia
Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
Thai Regional Alliance in Hong Kong
Thai Allied Committee for Desegregated Burma (TACDB Foundation)
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN)
MAP Foundation
Singapore Working Group on ASEAN (SWGA)
Think Centre, Singapore
Thai Labour Campaign (TLC)
Pa-Oh Foundation
Worker Hub For Change (WH4C) 
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia ( NAMM)
Thai Free Burma
Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT)
Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR)
Peace for Burma
Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines
Peoples' Vilalce Committee on Human Rights
Filipino Women’s Council, Italy
Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore
Women Workers Unity Group
Women Network for Advancement and Peace
Friends of Women Foundation
Rangsit and Area Labour Union Group
Nadi Ghati Morcha, India
The National Human Rights Society, Malaysia (HAKAM)
Nepal Women’s Association
Raks Thai Foundation
Comitato Antirazzista Durban Italia (CADI)
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), Bangladesh
South Asian Network for Refugees, IDPs & Migrants (SANRIM), Sri Lanka
International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED International), Nepal
Human Right, Community Right and Environment for Sustainable Development Protection Centre (HCESD)
Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation, Thailand
Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN), Thailand
Thai-Myanmar Foundation

·    Mr. Bruce Van Voorhis
·    Sor Rattanamanee Polkla (Lawyer)
·    Shay Boyle (Developement Worker, Trade Union Safety Team)
·    Suchada Thaweesit (Asst. Professor in Sociocultural Anthropology Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University)
·    Ms.Sopin JIRAKIATTIKUL (UFR Sciences Economiques, Montpellier, FRANCE)
·    Assoc.Prof. Kritaya Archavanitkul, Ph.D. (Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University)
·    Diana Mariano
·    Prashant Singh
·    Penny Thame (VSO Education Advisor of ZOA Refugee Care, Thailand)