Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Open Letter To ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting from Migrants

Open Letter To ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting,

Grand Hyatt, Bangkok,

Thailand 6th -7th May, 2008

We, migrants from Burma, who currently live and work in Malaysia and Thailand, have recently met and discussed the situation of migrant workers. We work as construction workers, domestic workers, factory workers, fisherfolk, migrant health workers and plantation workers. We, the migrant workers of ASEAN, have contributed to the building of ASEAN communities but our voices are rarely heard. Today, on behalf of the millions of migrants from Burma in this region, we ask for ASEAN to listen and act upon our concerns.

We call for an immediate end to corporal punishment, including whipping, and all forms of torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Migrants are regularly suffering such inhumane treatment just for migrating for work within the ASEAN region.

We are particularly concerned that State sponsored bounty hunters such as RELA (Volunteer Peoples Corps) in Malaysia and community informers in Thailand (through the Employment Alien Act 2008) divide communities, incite hatred and violence and bring about other negative consequences. We also fear that such actions will have adverse effects on the security of the region. WE call for the immediate abolition of RELA and the repeal of the relevant article in the Employment Alien Act of Thailand.

Our experiences as migrants have clearly shown us that increased border controls and travel restrictions force migrants to rely on brokers, smugglers, and traffickers. In order to travel to our work sites we have to travel in highly dangerous conditions, as witnessed by our brothers and sisters who suffocated in a container truck in Ranong on April 10th 2008. Therefore, we call for ASEAN to honour our inherent right to freedom of movement.

Migrants within ASEAN are living and working in sub-standard conditions. For the health, safety and well-being of all ASEAN communities, we call for national labour standards to be strictly enforced and for those standards to be upgraded to fully comply with international standards. ASEAN should also put into place mechanisms for the prompt response to workers concerns and complaints, especially for high-risk occupations which include construction work, fisherfolk, steel manufacturing and saw mills. In order for us to be able to make such complaints and to improve our working conditions, we call for the fundamental right of association due to all workers.

As a long neglected group of workers, we support domestic workers call to be recognized as workers throughout ASEAN and to receive equal protection and benefits as all workers. Particularly we call for immediate provision of one day paid leave a week for all domestic workers.

Since far too many migrant workers in ASEAN continue to suffer labour abuses in their workplace, we call for the right and access to timely legal redress for migrant workers. This must also include the right to live and work in the country of destination during legal procedures, for example during labour cases for non-payment of wages, unfair dismissal and breach of agreement.

We wish to remind ASEAN once more that we, who migrate to work are people not commodities. We are not only workers but people with the right to a whole range of services. It is unacceptable for the ASEAN caring community to deny new born babies birth certificates, to refuse migrant children education and to exclude migrants from national health care systems. Therefore we urge ASEAN to immediately implement policies which will redress these discriminatory practices.

Finally, everyone is entitled to national identity, but many ASEAN peoples’ rights to nationality has been denied, we abhor the governments which fail to acknowledge and protect their citizens.

Yours respectfully,

Migrant communities from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Johore, Kanchanburi, Kuala Lumpur, Mahachai, , Pahang, Phang Nga, Ranong, Samut Prakan ,Selangor, and Tak, ,

For further information please contact:

MAP Foundation, 66 53811202 or for English: 0860904118

Note that the Employment Alien Act of Thailand has a provision that "whistle-blowers" will be rewarded with 10% of the fine imposed on the said undocumented migrant and/or 'occupier".

In Malaysia, the RELA was also paid RM80/- per undocumented migrant.
( MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Michael Chong claimed that the reward offered had made RELA volunteers desperate to nab as many illegals as possible. - .....
see also article "

No comments: