Aung San Suu Kyi meets UNIAP
UNIAP along with anti trafficking partners from ILO, UNESCO, World Vision, and NEXUS Institute share their expertise and experiences on addressing human trafficking in Myanmar
L-R: Saw Morris (UNIAP), Lisa Rende Taylor (UNIAP), Paul Buckley (UNIAP), Aung San Suu Kyi, John Whan Yoon (World Vision), Matt Friedman (UNIAP), Max Tunon (ILO), Rebecca Surtees (NEXUS Institute), David Feingold (UNESCO)
On 31 May 2012, UNIAP and selected partners in anti-human trafficking had a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss the human trafficking situation as it affects Myanmar. The meeting took place after Ms Suu Kyi visited migrant communities in Samut Sakhon and met with Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung. UNIAP invited partners from ILO, UNESCO, World Vision, and NEXUS Institute to join and share their expertise.
During the briefing, Ms Suu Kyi shared considerable information gained from her trip thus far and discussions with the Royal Thai Government on policies towards migrant workers. She raised her concern for the estimated 1.2 million undocumented Myanmar migrants in Thailand, and discussed whether additional migrant workers from Myanmar were needed to be recruited through a formal MOU process, as the Myanmar and Thai Governments have been discussing, when over a million migrant workers are already in Thailand. She expressed that she was surprised to learn that the migrant registration process depended on employers choosing to register their workers, rather than allowing workers to register themselves, and noted the opportunity this provided for employers to take advantage of having undocumented workers who may be more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
The group discussed the importance of policies to protect migrant workers being enforced and put into practice on the ground. Ms Suu Kyi raised further concerns regarding the processes that migrant workers have to go through to be legally registered in Thailand, from the documentation they must produce to the associated costs, and that these should be addressed to help facilitate migrant workers’ safe employment. The issue of reliance on informal brokers was discussed, who were unregulated in the recruitment and migrant employment system in Thailand. Brokers often charge extortionate fees and contribute to the trafficking problem in Thailand by putting workers in debt bondage.
Ms Suu Kyi emphasized that 1.2 million vulnerable people was no small matter, and that the reality was that the factories and workplaces needed this labour. Her conclusion was that pressure should be increased on the factory owners and businesses themselves, to improve working conditions and eliminate trafficked labour from their workplaces. Such pressure could come from the Royal Thai Government (labour inspection and law enforcement) or private sector, recognizing that the factories in which Myanmar migrant workers are employed and sometimes exploited are producing food, garments, and other products exported for global consumption.