Friday, June 29, 2012

Thai employers fear exodus of Burmese migrants

Friday, 29 June 2012 12:57 Mizzima News

The idea of Burmese migrant workers eventually returning to their home country as its economy improve  is setting off alarms in Thailand, which depends on Burmese migrant labour in many industrial sectors.

Migrant workers repair a fishing net on a boat in Sattahip, in Thailand's Rayong Province. Thousands of Burmese work on Thai fishing boats and in industrial factories throughout the country. Photo: AFP

In Trang Province in far south Thailand, leaders are predicting a looming labour shortage in the next few years, according to Trang's Industry Council chairman Withee Supitak.

He told The Bangkok Post on Thursday: "Industry operators in Trang are worried that there will be a labour shortage crisis because they rely heavily on these migrant workers, especially in manufacturing."

The industrial sector in the south formerly employed workers from northeastern Thailand, he said, but with more jobs there at the same income rate, fewer Thais are looking for jobs in the south.

"If the migrant workers also return to their homeland, southern industry operators must quickly adapt to the change and find ways to deal with the situation by using less labour and turning to machinery instead," said Withee.

The economy in Trang includes labour intensive farm products such as para rubber and palm oil, and orders from foreign countries have fallen, placing more pressure employers, he said.

Concerns about an exodus of Burmese migrant workers were heightened in May when Aung San Suu Kyi visited Thailand and focused on the rights and status of Burmese workers.

She told Burmese migrants she would work to improve their lot in Thailand, but one day they would also be able to return home to find work.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a situation so that our citizens can come back to our country whenever they want to and without any trouble. We have to work together to get to that goal, not separately or in different ways,” she said.

 “Although our countrymen must come and work here at this time, please believe that the condition and status of our countrymen will rise along with the changes in our country,” she said.

There are up to 1 million undocumented Burmese migrants working in Thailand, according to some estimates.

A migrant worker in Thailand can earn a daily minimum wage of 300 baht (US$ 9.5) compared to around $1 a day in Burma in low-income jobs.

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