There is a lack of reliable and accessible information about migration in Myanmar, particularly in the rural areas where most of the prospective migrants are. Workers are therefore effectively pushed towards the ubiquitous broker, eventually resulting in higher recruitment costs. This is aided by a 1959 law prohibiting recruitment agencies from operating offices outside Yangon and MOLIP directives which forbid advertising by recruitment agencies. Although the latter is not strictly followed and some job- information is available on social media, websites are largely basic and often incomplete or out of date. The MOLIP ‘safe migration’ facebook page is a more useful source of practical information in Burmese for workers. A three-day pre-departure orientation carried out by recruitment agents is mandatory for migrants going to all countries, other than Thailand, because of the sheer scale of workers migrating there. This is ironic as these workers tend to be the least educated and experienced and would benefit the most from pre-departure training. Instead, all they receive is a basic session explaining the contract and working conditions immediately before the signing ceremony in Yangon, and a brief presentation on Thailand immediately prior to entering. In addition, trade unions and CSOs carry out their own training programmes but these are often limited in number and oversubscribed. CSOs and unions face restrictions and bureaucratic hurdles from local authorities, even when conducting their own outreach work. Increased cooperation between Government, CSOs and unions is therefore an obvious solution to improve information for workers.
Information made available by Thai authorities invariably focuses on those already in the country. Official websites provide some basic information, laws and regulations, cabinet resolutions, updates and detailed statistics, but these are mostly in Thai and thereby inaccessible to workers. Documents are also often outdated. Thai authorities do however produce material in various languages covering rights and duties of workers as also documents for irregular and undocumented workers already in the country. These include announcements about the regularisation process and warnings about registration deadlines. Similar information is also circulated via newspapers, internet videos and social media. Thai authorities have also collaborated extensively with the ILO, particularly on labour protection in the fisheries and seafood processing industry. There is good cooperation with NGOs who assist the ten Government Migrant Worker Assistance Centres, and the three ILO- supported Migrant Worker Resource Centres. In recent years, there has been increased collaboration in the fishing-seafood sector with NGOs also supporting the five Post-arrival and Reintegration Centres which also screened new workers and verified employment contracts. A number of seafarers’ centres have also been set up by NGOs and Government collaborating to provide advice and support to fishers. NGOs also often conduct their own events with migrants able to directly raise concerns with government officials. Many such ‘engagement’ events however tend to be proforma and/or symbolic.
Recommendations to the Government of Myanmar:
- Require that migrant workers to Thailand also receive the mandatory pre-departure orientation, which should be undertaken in consultation with workers groups and civil society groups and with recruitment agencies excluded.
- Increase cooperation with CSOs and unions ensuring that workers receive pre-departure and other necessary labour market information, including in rural areas so that they can make an informed decision to migrate.
Recommendations to the Royal Thai Government:
- Ensure that all information relevant to migrant workers - including laws, guidelines, information on fees/costs, particularly related to the complex and lengthy MOU process - is available in Burmese and other languages used by workers.