Workers trapped in border town
Hired by illegal job agencies, thousands stranded in Myawady without papers
Thousands of Myanmar migrant workers are trapped and living in miserable conditions in Myawady on the border with Thailand, sources said.
The workers were recruited by illegal job agencies but do not have work visas, the sources said.
There are more than 40 legal job agencies operating in Myawady, but there are also illegal ones, which reportedly recruit workers from across Myanmar, according to an official from a newly opened agency in the border town.
"Workers should have been brought here only after Nay Pyi Taw checked their job appointments with Thai factories. But no employment papers are in sight. These workers came here through brokers. They may have to stay here for four or five months until factories employ them upon receipt of their papers," he said.
Some workers survive on meals provided by their recruitment agencies. "We have to beg for a meal. I have been here in Myawady for about five months. I have spent 500,000 kyat [about Bt18,000], which includes money paid to the agency and money I owe to others. But I don't know when my job contract will arrive," said Maung Maung from Kyaukphyu Township, who arrived in Myawady through a broker.
Meanwhile, some young women are taking on odd jobs while waiting for their papers.
"Young women come here to work in Thailand. But some of them end up working in karaoke lounges. There were even some cases in which they were taken by human traffickers," Moe Gyi, a workers'-rights activist in Thailand's Mae Sot, told the Eleven Media Group.
Statistics from the Myanmar government show that Thailand has about 2.5 million Myanmar migrant workers; of this number, about 1 million are undocumented.
Myanmar has 49 employment agencies accredited to send workers to Thailand.
Lovely World Service Co in Myanmar is reportedly planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with Thailand's Job Worker Services Co Ltd. to officially send 450 workers to Thailand. The workers will be sent to construction sites and will receive a daily wage of Bt300 for an eight-hour shift. Under Thailand's social security law, these workers can avail of free medical treatment.
New job recruitment firms are also planning to lessen the delay by coordinating directly with their partner companies in Thailand, according to People's Choice Job Agency in Myawaddy.
However, these agencies reportedly take no responsibility for Thai employers' exploitation of Myanmar workers such as cutting more than Bt1,000 a month for water and electricity, among others. In addition, they are not provided with healthcare benefits contrary to what the employers promised.
According to Ko Myat from an employment agency, Myanmar workers can contact the embassy in Thailand if their problems are not addressed by agencies.