Development Traps in Thailand

The kingdom of Thailand,(formerly Siam) also known as the land of smiles is a hot, humid country located centrally in the  Indochinese Peninsula. Currently, the nation Is a constitutional monarchy and has suffered political turmoil for years, switching between parliamentary democracy and military Junta at various points. The latest coup was in 2014 led by Prayut Chan-o-cha leader of the National Council for Peace and Order and the current prime minister.(NESDB 2014) The Thai economy ranks amongst some of the worlds highest, ranking 20th by GDP and PPP.  Thailand is considered to be an emerging economy with it being listed as a newly industrialized country. This means that the country has outpaced its developing counterparts, but has not as of yet in a macroeconomic sense reached the economic level of a fully developed country(ONESD 2013).Thailand is one of the ‘tiger cub economies’ along with Indonesia, Philipines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. These are the five dominant countries in Southeast Asia. The name ‘tiger cubs’ comes from the four ‘asian tigers, namely: Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. These are the four countries with the highest developed free market economies in Asia. The ‘tiger cubs’ attempt to follow the same export driven and developed economies of the ‘Asian tigers.’ (Asian Market Research 2013). Thailand has come a long way and overcame much political and economic turmoil for the country to be where it is now. The World Bank recognized Thailand as “One of the greatest development success stories” in social development indicators.(World Bank 2012). Thailand has now however reached a standstill as Thailand is facing a number of development traps.

 

Development traps are common in developing countries , and according to Paul Collier,  it is where they ‘ got caught in one or other of the traps’ that can impede development.(Collier 2008). It can be seen in a country such as Thailand that it is not any one development trap alone that has held Thailand back but rather the interconnectedness of a number of traps working together to suppress growth. Issues such as poverty, governance, geography, demography, and conflict. Many of the poverty traps are  interconnected for example when it comes to the demographics of a country it shows the relationship between poverty and fertility has much to do with ‘trapping a country’ in poverty. A high population growth leads to deeper poverty, and deeper poverty contributes to higher fertility rates. (Sachs 2005) Therefore countries are left with both high mortality rates and are unable to feed the children sufficiently that they do manage to have. The demographic trap comes into play because of the geographical trap which shows how a countries geographical locations affect it in a number of ways. This can be seen when a country may be landlocked and must rely on neighbouring countries for dealing in the overseas trade. Even if a country is not landlocked, then there is still the issue of living in a very hot environment as Kay said in 2003 ‘productive economies are cooler … there are no rich states in the tropics’.(Kay 2003) This is due to a number of reasons such as how the chance to efficiently farm is seriously diminished due to the bacteria in the soil working faster. People working in hot climates also face a number of diseases and even if they are unaffected they still have to work in the hot and humid location of their country. It is proven that human productivity declines as heat rises.

 

 

Thailand has met many of these development traps in a number of ways. Due to political unrest and the coups in 2006 and 2011.The GDP growth was brought down for years and was therefore the country was unable to develop many initiatives that were planned during those times. There was also the ‘rice scandal’ between 2011 and 2014 which severely affected farmers. With 40% of the Thai GDP being contributed by agriculture this was a harsh blow for Thailand. This, in turn, led to another coup which affected economic growth even further. It shows that poverty traps in Thailand lead to governance and conflict traps which affected the poorest in society even further. Some of the  people that suffered most were the farmers in Isaan for example,Isaan is  known as the least developed part of Thailand. The farmers in Isaan were already suffering from poverty, geographical and demographics traps. Now the main development trap facing Thailand is the ‘middle-income trap, this is a term which has become popular over the last several years and refers to an invisible ceiling that developing countries often hit.(Tamaki Kyozuka 2016).In Thailand, this means that its wages have become too high for it to compete against other low wage, low-income nations. This, in turn, has led to low investments, slow growth, limited industrial versification and poor labor market conditions.(Wharton,2017).The government is planning to combat Thailand ‘middle-income trap with deep government investments and offer incentives in infrastructure in the hopes of luring foreign investment, thus leading to a range of top-down initiatives and ‘Thailand 4.0’. (Wharton,2017).

 

Thailand has been facing numerous development traps for years. There needs to be significant roles played by both the market and the state in Thailand to help people climb out of them. The movement towards Thailand 4.0 is a bold initiative by the government. Thailand 4.0 is an economic model without much basis on how to get over Thailand’s ‘middle-income trap.’ Thailand will need the support of foreign specialist to make 4.0 a reality. Professional associations in Thailand among others totally oppose this, however, wishing to keep professional jobs for Thais only. The state must also have much stronger anti-corruption policies, as corruption has plagued the country for years; holding the country back in numerous ways. The market also plays a vital role in helping people to escape these traps by ensuring the coordination of any innovation. Both the supply and the demand. As well as providing the opportunity cost of any action is not too high. People from all communities must also be able to access the market easily. Most importantly of all though people must have trust in the market, that is essential.

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Humanistic and Radical Approaches to Andragogy

 

 

For my first choice, I shall refer to humanistic education and why I feel that it is most relevant to me just now in my present circumstances. Learning through a humanistic approach to education relies on being self-directed. As with many of us doing this course and was mentioned before I work a full-time job to pay for the course. By being given the opportunity to be self-directed allows someone working to study at a pace that is suitable to them at the times when they are available. Through this approach of self-directed learning, it will enable the learner to be tested on the most valuable form of evaluation: self-evaluation. This is notably important when in comes to andragogy regarding development studies. Many adult learners wish to deepen their understanding of development as they already have extensive experience through their careers and lifestyles, a humanistic approach allows the learner to incorporate their own experiences into their learning As Saul McLeod wrote in 2007:” “Humanistic, humanism, and humanist are terms in psychology relating to an approach which studies the whole person, and the uniqueness of each.”(Saul McLeod 2007).A Humanistic approach does not separate from the cognitive and affective domains, understanding that both feeling and knowledge are important as opposed to objectively memorized facts.(Cortland 2012).A humanistic approach to education allows adult learners to learn in a non-threatening and safe environment where we can use our own skills and experiences to help us grow and develop in a whole way.

 

 

Radical education is an approach which views education as a means to bring about fundamental social, cultural, political, and economic change.(Daniel Schugurensky,2002).Radical education focuses on promoting social, political and economic reform through education.(Shana Appelhanz, 2014).This is especially important to us in development studies because we already have interests in this area and can hone our already growing knowledge base. Radical education serves to provide equality to all who study as It relates to” access to wealth, education, healthcare, creative work, and to promoting collective and corporative forms of decision making and labor.”(Bookfield and Holst,2011).Origins of  Radical education can be traced back to Marxist theory and anarchist traditions. Allowing the teachers to rather be supporters of students and being on equal terms allows beneficial symbiotic relations to foster. Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire was an essential contributor to the philosophy, fundamentally he believed that collective action and continuing the struggle for the oppressed was important to liberate themselves from all forms of domination(Reflect Action,2009).This then, in turn, allows learners and educators to challenge the status quo.

 

I believe that both humanistic and radical approaches to education have their merits when it comes to andragogy. The humanist approach allows adult learners to study in a way in which they can learn in a self-directed approach in which they can incorporate all of their own experiences and knowledge. Radical education allows learners to study as co-creators of knowledge. As Freire noted traditional education methods instead treat individuals as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. This can be seen in his “banking model of education.” There are critiques of course of both of these approaches such as how humanistic education may lead to individualization If all the students in class regularly do the same thing at the same time, their individual needs are not being met and this would be bad(Kenneth R. Conklin,1984). Critics of the radical approach to education argue that the philosophy is too rigid and with the too widely varying definitions is too hard to put into practice.  Regarding how these methods relate to myself and learning on this course, I believe these to be two most reliable due to my present circumstances. Development studies are often undertaken by individuals with a wealth of knowledge in the field already. The knowledge that they can draw upon to apply to a variety of situations. This is especially true when it comes to adult learners who may be working long hours in the area of development.

Resiliance

Resilience is a word that has become prominent in the development studies community over the last few years. Resilience started to appear after the 2008 financial crisis as people were looking for new techniques and terminology for tackling poverty.(Misha Hussain 2016).Vulnerability is also a term that has become popular over the last decade. It is important to note that both these terms are often used when referring to positive elements of poverty reduction but do however mean two entirely different things. Vulnerability is not merely about poverty, but extensive research over the last 30 years has revealed that it is generally the poor who tend to suffer from disasters(DFID 2004). Resilience, however, is deployed in diverse fields including psychology, structural engineering, and corporations. Resilience is discussed in a number of areas including the social sciences, ecological fields amongst others. Resilience has been the focus for many development projects and could be said to be replacing sustainability as the eventual goal of development practice(IDS,2012) Resilience could be said to be when actors can withstand changes and adjustments and still function normally. Theoretical discussions on the varying definitions of resilience have been generated over the years. Most of these definitions are merely used as an indication of the job to be done but are however unable to capture all possible worries about peoples vulnerability. For example, many make reference only to how much loss people (or systems) suffer, but do not address the essential question of how far they fall below any threshold of acceptable coping; a little distinction is made between how much people lose and how quickly they recover. (Simon Levine, HPD Policy Brief 2014)This concept of actors using their own definition of resilience has led to the idea that the idea of resilience may merely be another way to mask some of the underlying causes of poverty and environmental destruction.

 

 

 

Resilience should be thought of somewhat as a conceptual tool in which other, other disciplines can come together to tackle difficulties in a holistic manner. In some ways, it can be seen that many of the issues which cause crises are inevitable. The task, therefore, being to allow people to cope when to eventually go wrong. This helps to ensure that the most vulnerable may be protected, rather than pumping resource’s into developing countries, it allows aid to be distributed to who need it most. (Simon Levine, HPD Policy Brief 2014).An example of this can be seen in a case study of the food resilience programmes run by Practical Action as part of the Zurich Alliance. Practical Action helped to set up a farming school for at-risk communities in Nepal, living on the floodplains of the Karnali river.  The villagers were always at risk from flash floods, which endangered their livestock, food, and homes. This caused many to take on expensive loans to allow them to recover. The farming schools were set up which allowed the villagers to learn new sustainable farming techniques. This allowed farmers to cultivate outside the varying seasons. Practical Action also helped to advise villagers how to protect their assets during the floods. The resilience of this community then allowed them to invest in other areas, such as healthcare and education for their children.(Adele Murphy, 2017).

 

 

The main trouble with resilience is the difficulty in defining what resilience programming actually looks like. There is also the risk that by making an entire community very resilient there still may be those who will suffer. This can be seen when a community may become very resilient to say natural disasters and climate change adaption but still very poor.  This is what can lead to manipulation when used as a tool for poverty alleviation. Much of this may be when the term is misused, as there are many different conceptualizations of resilience it is hard to define what a resilient community may look like. Resilience cannot be used until it is fully understood rather, resilience must be used as a process as part of other development practices. (IDS,2012)

 

 

Resilience is essential now in any form of development planning, especially regarding poverty reduction. Resilience cannot, however, be used instead of other methods to challenge poverty and climate change. Alternatively, it must be used as a continuing process and put into the planning of other methods. It is essential to building resilient communities but also not to forget the most vulnerable, and at-risk individuals, focus must not be on not only how far people fall but also how fast they can recover. In this sense when resilience is applied it must be holistically and with a precise definition. For instance, do we necessarily need to adopt a resilience framework to analyze the potential role of social protection programmes to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the recipients? (Godfrey Wood 2011)

 

 

 

Brief Economic History of Thailand

Thailand can be broken into four main regions. The North with its mountainous and fertile lands viable for growing rice and teak. Central Thailand home to Bangkok “City of Angels” and the fertile Chao Phraya basin. The North East (Essan), the driest, least productive and least modern place in Thailand. The South, with its moist atmosphere where many produce rubber, tropical crops, and tin. Thailand the “Land of the free” was a country living in the ideal of attaining a virtuous life by shaping their character to Buddhist principles where goodness was prized over personal wealth. Thailand has now changed from an absolute monarchy rule, to one of self-sustained Democracy. Buddhism has supplied cognitive and evaluative elements that have been integrated into every aspect of Thai identity, even If the individual is Thai or part of a Thai ethnic minority. Thailand is an extremely hierarchal society, If you are born into a ‘High-so’  family – as they are typically referred to here – your sense of identity is of course very different than if you are born into a ‘Low-so’ family. Individuals who are born into ‘High-so’ families often have a feeling of superiority over those that are born into ‘Low-so’ families.

 

 

 

Wetland agriculture has always played a significant role in Thailand’s economy. Known previously as Siam, Thailand opened to foreign contact in the pre-industrial era. Previously, Thailand was a feudal society mostly run by noble families. The Thai economy changed from one of subsidence to cash during the nineteenth century by the opening of the commercial rice market, during this time the power of the noble families was weakened as more rights were given to farmers by the King. (Jeffrey Hayes, 2008). Thailand slowly became one of the major trade hubs in Asia, mostly trading with Chinese merchants, many of whom migrated and attained high positions within the country. Later, deals with Europe increased, with treaties being created to guarantee the rights and privileges of European traders. Later amendments were made extending these opportunities to Americans also. Thailand’s economy eventually grew until it began to work on a global scale. During the time of the Vietnam war and the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Thailand began to grow at a level where the economy started to rival that of other developed nations such as Taiwan and South Korea. Growing steadily at eight percent per year between 1985 and 1995 and peaking at 13 percent in 1988. This growth continued until the great depression and then later the Asian financial crisis which originated in Thailand in 1997 because of the financial collapse of the Thai Baht. The crisis was the worst economic crisis ever to hit Thailand and was dubbed the Tom Yum Goong crisis (Spicy Shrimp Soup) due to the immense heat and stress that people felt at that time. There was action taken by many actors at the time, including the Thai monarchy. Bhumibol Adulyadej was the King at this time and had toured the country for years, especially in rural and impoverished regions such as Essan; considered to be the most impoverished region of the nation. King Bhumibol had significantly lectured on the benefits of following a sufficiency based economy. The focus being on an economy that would allow the Thai people to support themselves (UNDP report 2007). The sufficiency economy philosophy is made up of three main components these being: wisdom, moderation, and prudence. Sufficiency economy has much in common with Buddhist economics, a spiritual belief that gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product. As Zsolnai Laszlo stated, Buddhist economics can be summed up as when “the marginal productivity of labor utilized in producing consumption goods is equal to the marginal effectiveness of the meditation involved in economizing on consumption without bringing about any change in satisfaction” (Zsolnai, Laszlo, 2011). The king among other members of the monarchy carried out a number of royal projects hoping to alleviate some of the effects of the Tom Yum Goong crisis.

 

 

Thailand’s focus for the next few years was recovery. After facing a number of natural disasters and political turmoil, Thailand was on its way to recovery. This was what led to the rise of Thaksin Shinawatra and his policy which was later named ‘Thaksinomics’ which had a focus on promoting greater infrastructure and development in rural Thailand. Thaksin was voted into office in 2001 and although the first year saw as little as 2.2 percent GDP growth, the following years saw positive growth from 2002-2004 with rates of 5.3, 7.1 and 6.3 (Aidan Jones, 2014). This again led to his party having another huge victory in 2005 where he was re-elected. There was much opposition to Thaksinomics amid reports of corruption, which later led to the military coup in 2006 while Thaksin was giving a speech at the United Nations general assembly in New York. This brought the GDP growth rate back down to 4.4 percent in 2006. Then in 2008, there was even more political turmoil between opposing groups, those who supported Thaksin and those who supported the leader of the military coup. The following years were filled with political and financial turmoil, never again having the steady growth of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thaksonomics. In 2011 Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra was elected and was Prime Minister for a further three years until she was ousted in May 2014.The rice scheme was in many ways what led to her election in 2011 and subsequent removal in 2014. Yingluck promised to buy rice from Thai farmers at above market value. The rice was obtained and kept with the idea of selling it at the right time for a record profit. However, India then began to lift bans on rice exports as well as Vietnam lowering its costs of exports. Thailand could then not sell the rice that had been collected, and the rice started to deteriorate. There were immense amounts of rice in storage and Thailand was forced to sell it at a much lower price than intended. The total cost of the plan has been estimated at eight to twenty million dollars. The coup was led by military general Prayut Chan-o-cha who then established a Junta called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (Taylor, Adam; Kaphle, Anup 2014). Prayut is the current head of the NCPO and concurrently the Prime Minister of Thailand to this day.

 

 

 

It is clear that Thailand’s economic past has been littered with times of political unrest and financial turmoil. Thailand is a newly industrials country (NIC) and is not an entirely developed nation, yet has outpaced its other developing counterparts. With over 40 percent of Thais working in agriculture and 16 million rice farmers working in the country, it is essential that strong policies are put in place to support them. The tourism industry in Thailand is also almost double the world’s average. The average GDP contribution being 9 percent while Thailand is currently 17.7 percent. It is clear that Thailand also has a significant reliance on foreign investment. The ‘next step’ for Thailand as dubbed by the NCPO is Thailand 4.0. Thailand is currently in Phase 3.0 with Heavy-industry and energy accounting for around 70 percent of the Thai GDP. In the past, during Thailand 1.0 it was an agrarian economy. Then during Thailand 2.0, the focus was on light industry, textiles and food processing. Thailand 4.0 has three main principles:

  1. Make Thailand a high-income nation,
  2. Make Thailand a more inclusive society,
  3. Focus on sustainable growth and development.

Thailand 4.0 is an economic model without much basis on how to get over Thailand’s ‘middle-income trap.’ Thailand will need the support of foreign specialist to make 4.0 a reality. Professional associations in Thailand among others totally oppose this, however, wishing to keep professional jobs for Thais only. For the time being the Thai people must look towards the NCPO to lead them towards economic prosperity.

 

 

 

 

The modern Phu-Tai People and their dissipation of identity

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Chom Saenmit 88 years old look back to his youth with fondness. He remembers the year the school was built and he was enrolled in the first class of his village in Ban Na Bua. Chom is Phu-Tai, not to be confused the  Budai groups of Northern Vietnam and Southern China as they so often are. The current Phu-Tai residing in Thailand are the descendants of various  groups of Phu-Tai settlers who migrated from Kham Muam and Savannakhet during the 19th century. Chom recalls the time when his school first opened, the Phu-Tai people learned with their teachers speaking Laos at first, then Thai and finally Phu-Tai. The younger generations all speak Phu-Tai, even the youngest children have a knowledge of the language; thanks to the efforts of teachers like Ajarn Darang Lang the local Anuban teacher the language is being kept alive.

 

 

There has not been much of a decline in the number of speakers of Phu-Tai according to the research of William A. Smalley 2005 . That is not to say that the Phu-Tai language is not altered more each and every year in numerous ways. In the past Phu-Tai communities very much kept to themselves, married amongst themselves and held on to their inherent traditions.

 

 

 

Chom recalls a time when parents chose the partners for their children, a tradition common among many ethnic groups in Thailand’s past. This  kept the Phu-Tai community very closed off in the past, yet keeping their culture and customs very much intact. During the last hundred years however the Phu-Tai communities have become more and more integrated into greater Thai society. Phu-Tai people are free to marry who they will now, no matter their religious or cultural background. Chom told regrettably us of how his daughter has married a man from Phuket, she lives  there with him now and has even converted to Islam. Something which would certainly not have happened in the past. Cases like his daughters have of course made numerous changes to the Phu-Tai language. Even if Phu-Tai people are marring individuals who live nearby, they may not be Phu-Tai, they are more often than not in fact Thai. This is leading to more and more Thai words being assimilated into the Phu-Tai language.

 

 

 

 

Phu-Tai  are almost entirely Buddhist now, differing from most other branches of Tai ethnicity who very much keep to their own animistic and spiritual religious practices. The Phu-Tai people do however keep many of their spiritual and medicinal traditions alive by the use of mo yao healing. This is both a herbal and shamanistic form of healing. Most of the Phu-Thai communities still follow the practice but the younger generation specifically see little merit in it. There has been significant research into the effective of Mo yao healing by numerous anthropologists and Thai medical professionals . Most notably were several studies using both quantative and qualitive data into several Phu-Tai communities throughout Kalasin province. One such study was carried out by Mr.Thanyalux Mollerup which revealed the intricate relationship between the Phu-Tai people and Mo yao healing to still be very much alive, however it is now practiced in a very different way from when it once was. The research by Thanyalux also revealed how the Thai government healthcare system has taken place of Mo yao healing in most villages, as government healthcare programs reach even the most remote peoples now. Most of the reliance now tends to be on mental and non-physical forms of healing as these can often be put down to spiritual ailments. Mo yao healing is a major part of the traditional Phu-Tai lifestyle and if it is lost so too may their ethnic identity.

 

 

The Phu-Tai people have not entirely lost their identity, however. Another individual trying to keep Phu-Tai traditions alive is Mr.Jarook Saenmit, the deputy president of the thambon sub-district. Jarook has tried several approaches to keep the Phu-Tai cultural heritage alive. He told us of how even just 50 years earlier the area surrounding where we were interviewing him was once a forest. Ban Na Bua was once very much a forested region of Isaan. He told us of how people used stilts as a way to cross through the forests and avoid the mud and water. Jarook is attempting to revitalize Phu-Tai traditions by running various activities and workshops for the locals. Some of the activities include showing the children how to use the stilts, variations of Phu-Tai dancing and singing workshops, as well as weaving and numerous other traditional practices.  No one can be certain how the Phu-Tai people will have changed in another hundred years, nor how much of their cultural identity will have survived. We can, however, be confident that through the efforts of individuals like Mr.Jarook, not all of the  Phu-Tai heritage will be lost.

The Human Rights Abuses of migrant workers in Thailand-แรงงานข้ามชาติ

In Thailand, there are almost two million migrant workers, around eighty percent of them being Burmese. Many of the Burmese workers came in the eighties and nineties as Thailand experienced an economic boom having an average wage increase of eight percent per year. This was because the migrant workers would take up the jobs that many Thai people would not such as manufacturing and hard agricultural work. Many leave in the face of almost certain poverty for the chance of a better life. Upon arrival in Thailand, however, they face discrimination and human rights abuses daily, both from their employers and from the authorities that are supposed to be protecting them.

 

 

 

Migrant workers arrive in Thailand with the hopes of living a better life than the one that they left behind. Those hopes are often shattered in a concise time. Migrant workers are effectively tied to their employers, they are not able to find other work, and their company holds all their ‘legal’ paperwork. Not only this but authorities such as the police, military and even the immigration services that are supposed to be helping often abuse them, extorting them for money, threaten to kill them and can detain them without fear of reprisal. Common crime is another common factor which migrant workers fall victim to as they have few other that they can turn to with the authorities often looking the other way and are unwilling to help the workers. Numerous Inter-governmental organisations(IGO) have condemned Thailand’s discrimination and failure to protect its migrant worker population. This will be a paper to show what form of discrimination that the migrant workers in Thailand face as well as what discourse is used to justify their marginalised status as well as put forward suggestions of where NGOs and other organisations could intervene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Thailand has so many Burmese migrant workers

 

As was mentioned previously the majority of migrant workers arrive in Thailand with dreams of a better future for them and their families. In the case of the Burmese migrant workers, it is due closely to Thailand’s economic boom in the 1990s when the average salary was steadily increasing at eight percent per annum.(Arnold 2005).The reason that workers from Burma were so ready to come to Thailand was also the relatively lax borders and immigration at that time due to the ‘constructive agreement’ enacted by the Chatichai Choonhavan government. Streams of migrant workers from Burma began pouring into the Thailand. They started taking the manual jobs that the Thai people of the time detested such as agriculture, factory and domestic work. Thailand then began to rely on these workers, and they would do workers that locals refused to and were needed more than every especially during the time of the Asian economic crisis. With this reliance came more workers as many were escaping the violent repression during the pro-democracy uprising in 1988, and on-going military offensives by the ruling military regime against ethnic nationalities, hundreds of thousands of people have fled, and continue to flee across the border to Thailand. All workers who arrived in Thailand travelled without any documentation, leaving their own country illegally and also entering Thailand illegally.(Pollock 2006).Gender is another factor which comes into play which forces many women to leave Burma. There is little opportunity for females to have quality education in Burma, forcing them to take low-skilled labour work when they can. There is a great deal of sexual violence in Burma that women wish to escape, most notably in the Shan state.Migrant workers have the potential to make a considerable amount of money in Thailand in comparison to what they could make back home in Burma. They then make what they can and send it back to their families in Burma. Even though these jobs are often over ten hours a day, manual labour jobs seven days a week in terrible conditions; they come from extreme poverty in Burma and is their only possibility to make money (Rohan Radheya 2014).According to Grant: ” The more illegal a migrant, the greater is the danger of the journey, or of being exploited, or even enslaved by the trafficker or unscrupulous employers:.(Grant 2005)

 

 

 

Discrimination and human rights abuses faced by migrant workers in Thailand

 

Sometimes Burmese workers’ pay for their position to work in Thailand from Burma. Sometimes the employers from Thailand can pay an agent to find employees for them. Either way, the migrant worker is liable to face debt as the cost of coming to Thailand, and their position amounts to several months wages. This doubled with extreme interest keep the workers crippled, unable to leave and no one to lend aid as they cannot go to the authorities. Police can do as they will and have little fear that anything will happen to them. A witness told Human Rights Watch how two policemen kicked a Burmese boy to death. They spoke to him, but he did not and could not reply to them in Thai:

“Many Burmese were watching, and nobody went and helped because all of the people were afraid of that police, so nobody said anything about this killing, and nobody informed the police station,” said the witness. “When I saw this [killing], I felt that we Burmese people always have to be humble and have to be afraid of the Thai police. I feel that there is no security for our Burmese people [in Thailand] or for myself.”(HRW 2010)

The employers hold the worker’s papers if the worker has them at all. This means that they cannot approach authorities even if they were willing to take the risk, as they have no papers to prove their eligibility in Thailand. This also counts for all forms of healthcare and other institutions that they cannot have access to freely. In Thailand citizens currently pay thirty baht per month for their healthcare, and they are covered.Migrant workers, however, do not have this luxury however and if an accident should befall them in their poor working conditions, then there is no way to receive medical attention without getting further and even deeper into debt.Having little money and unable to find little in the way of medical treatment many workers find themselves with some long-lasting injuries or diseases; from broken hands that never healed properly to cancer and most notably HIV/AIDs. A number of aid projects have been put in place to help migrants with the HIV/AIDs problem such as The Prevention of HIV/AIDS among Migrant Workers in Thailand Program known as “PHAMIT,” was funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) with the aim to reduce new HIV infection among migrant workers in Thailand. The program started in 2003 and ended in 2008.  Migrants reported constant fear of extortion by the police, who demand money or valuables from migrants held in police custody in exchange for their release. It is not uncommon for a migrant to lose the equivalent of one to several months’ pay in one extortion incident..(HRW 2010).Migrant workers in Thailand are severely prohibited in their movement and from any form of trade unions or peaceful assemblies. They would immediately be shut down and arrested. Workers must stay in designated zones and not leave them; they risk being detained by authorities and further trouble with their employers. In some cases when workers are held by police, they are unable to pay the ridiculous fees demanded of them. The police then may ask their work friends, and if they do not have the money, they may have to ask their family member back in Burma. The very people that the workers came to Thailand to try and make money for to send back to them. Sex workers are routinely trafficked in and are often young, knowing little about where they are going. Sometimes even being sold by their own family members.

“All the other girls were crying all the time, but I just kept quiet because I thought to myself that if I cry they can kill me and if I don’t cry they can also kill me, so why should I cry? So I just prepared my heart to face whatever was going to happen, because I did not want to cry. I thought I was going to die.”

(Bee Komjamwong, 2008)

Workers also face conflict and abuse from other rival migrant worker groups such as Cambodian with registered work permits.They often abuse the Burmese workers as they are seen as below them.( Zaw Naing 2010). To be legally employed in Thailand, migrants need three documents from Thai authorities: a labour card, a medical treatment card and a certificate from the immigration bureau. These are issued a certificate provided by the employer. In practice, migrants pay about 20,000 baht (600 dollars) each to brokers to arrange these documents. ( Zaw Naing 2010)It is not impossible for workers to change their status from illegal to legal workers it is however extremely difficult.Due to the restriction’s  set on them, they can do little to save the vast sums of money needed to achieve legal status. Workers are severely limited in their movements with not being able to drive their own vehicles or even their employers.They are not allowed to travel without written permission given by the department of employment. This then leaves them at the mercy of Thai teenage gangs who may rob and beat them. Many police recruit migrant workers and recruit them as gang members to work on their behalf; this appeals to many workers as they are then under the protection of the police and if there are fights between the migrants which there often is the police will take their side. The worker then must act as a more mediate between the two factions when workers are imprisoned and such. The more they know however makes their position more precarious as they find out more their life gets put in even more danger. A number of these inside migrant workers have disappeared already (Saw Htoo 2008)  The media does little to help the plight of the migrant workers, the media has been promoting its mostly ethnocentric views since the 1990s.Along with this is the nationalistic school system in place in Thailand which portrays Burma as their old nemesis and little else.The idea of Burma being Thailand oldest enemy is shown throughout numerous modern Thai movies, where ancient Thai heroes valiantly defeat evil Burmese commanders and save the innocents.

“They don’t treat people well because they still view them as enemies,” said Tananart Sakolvittayanon, 22, a graduate of Thammasat University.

“We need to learn real history, not just history that they burned our city… This is the 21st century.” (Tang 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has been done to so far to aid the migrant workers in Thailand

 

Numerous Inter-governmental organisations have openly spoken out against Thailand and its human rights breaches. The International Labor Organisation(ILO) for example at the  State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) had been criticising the Royal Thai Government(RTG) and how Thailand takes care of its migrant workers, saying that Thailand was in deep breach of International law. Savit Kaewarn, General Secretary of SERC, today said:

 

“Migrants in Thailand continue to suffer systematic discrimination as they work hand in hand with Thai workers to develop our economy. Instead of integrating foreign workers into our society, the Thai government consistently denies them their most fundamental rights. SERC again calls on the Ministry of Labour and all other public bodies to eliminate all discriminatory policies and laws to ensure migrant workers gain the fundamental rights to which all ‘workers,’ regardless of their nationality and immigration status, are entitled to.”

In 2012 the labour minister Minister Padermchai Sasomsap came up with a plan to help  Thailand remove themselves from the  “Tier 2 watch list”.This is a list from the Us State Department that Tiers countries on their level of human trafficking and efforts to stop it. The Labor Prim Ministers plan was to send all women who were three to four months pregnant back to Burma.This would then stop children being brought up in the ‘shanty towns’ where the workers live and further contributing the awful record of migrant child labour in Thailand.( Prachatai 2012).There are numerous other ways to help alleviate the human trafficking problem in Thailand, not simple deporting the pregnant women. The children of migrant workers should be educated and learn in established schools. The corrupt official should have pressure put on them and more efforts made to help the victims of trafficking.(Adams 2012). There have been some volunteer teachers, but little else can be done until the authorities allow the workers to move more freely and engage in the social domain.

 

 

 

What NGOs could be doing to help alleviate the burdens that face the migrant workers in Thailand

There has been criticisms of the Thai government and its handling of migrant workers. There does have to be more done for the workers at a local level, however. Workers should have more help in obtaining there legal working status. Little can be done as they remain illegal workers. Without legal status, they cannot gain access to healthcare and education which is pivotal for the workers to improve their status.As migrant workers have been coming to Thailand for almost thirty thirty years now, many have had families and now have multiple generations living together in shanty towns. The children do not receive an education which continues the cycle. Workers need freedom of movement to be able to gain better employment and not be tied to their employers. Employers must be held accountable and must have contracts checked by governing bodies. This way employer will not be able to withhold the worker’s paper or hold them ransom.

 

 

 

 

There are rampant human rights abuses currently taken place against the migrant workers in Thailand. There is little regulation for the workers. There is also no reprisal against those who are discriminating against migrant workers and denying them their basic human rights. The workers live in squalid conditions and have little education; their children do not have legal status either and therefore will fall into the same life as their parents. The authorities which should be protecting migrant workers are in fact abusing them, leaving them not one to turn to but instead seeing them as easy victims. Migrants have little knowledge of their rights and no nothing of unionising or forming policy. The migrant worker’s countries of origins should have stronger liaisons with Thai authorities to ensure the rights of workers and that more solid borders are enforced, and corrupt officials brought to account to help stop human trafficking.