Migrant workers’ group receives International Award

A Burmese migrant labour activist organization had been awarded the International Labour Rights Award for its contribution to the labour rights movement and exposing work-related rights violations.

The International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) jointly honoured the Burmese Migrant Workers Network (MWRN), based in Bangkok, and Thailand’s State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) for their “groundbreaking” efforts.

In a statement released by the US-based ILRF, Executive Director Judy Gearhart said “MWRN is on its way to becoming a globally recognized representative of migrant workers on issues relating to trafficking, forced labor and other labor rights abuses in Thailand.

“We are committed to standing with MWRN and supporting the organization’s work in the future.”

Ko Zaw, a migrant worker and the vice chairman of the MWRN, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the recognition was testament to “the grassroots migrant workers who gathered to work together against injustice faced by migrant peers.”

The MWRN, formed four years ago by Burmese migrant laborers working in Thailand’s seafood processing sector, addresses issues related to labor rights violations and human trafficking.

Most of its approximately 700 members work in Bangkok’s Mahachai area.

Migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos officially make up about 10 percent of Thailand’s workforce, but many more migrants are trafficked or exploited in other ways.

The countries’ leaders have introduced a national verification process to reduce illegal hiring and the labor exploitation that often comes with undocumented employment.

But that process has failed to help migrant workers, said Ko Zaw, as migrants who apply for the necessary legal documents, including a temporary passport and work permit, still must pay large fees to agents.

There are an estimated 3 million Burmese migrants employed in Thailand, but only 1.3 million have undergone the national verification process. A total of 900,000 migrants have been issued temporary passports while 400,000 applications are still being processed at one of 11 one-stop service centers across Thailand.

The date for issuance of the 400,000 temporary passports has been pushed back to Aug. 11, after officials initially said the applications would be processed by May.

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