RESTRICTED RIGHTS: Migrant Workers in Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia
Today sees the launch of the report Restricted Rights: Migrant Workers in Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The report presents the findings from a series of in-depth interviews with migrant women employed in the garment and electronic industry supply chains in three ASEAN countries. Commissioned by the War on Want, a UK based charity organisation, the research was carried out by the Asian Migrant Centre, in collaboration with the MAP Foundation, Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Workers’ Hub for Change (WH4C), and the Mekong Migration Network (MMN).
The research reveals a common tale of precarious lives lived out in the face of state oppression and exploitation by negligent companies and greedy employers. It uncovers how Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia have reaped huge economic benefits off the back of migrant labour. Yet the same countries continue to refuse migrant workers the rights and security that are their due.
In Cambodia, almost 90% of garment factory workers are young women who have migrated from rural areas in search of work. Migrants from neighboring countries provide an essential workforce for the thriving export industries of Thailand and Malaysia. Despite their contributions migrant workers continue to endure harsh working conditions and extremely low wages.
Sokchar Mom of the LSCW, Cambodia, points out that:
"The minimum wage in Cambodia cannot be considered a living wage. It is very difficult for garment factory workers to earn enough money even to eat properly. Can you imagine, one has to work for nearly 6 hours to afford a simple 1 litre bottle of cooking oil? To put this in perspective, a worker on the minimum wage in the UK only has to work for 18 minutes to buy the same."
Also included in this study are interviews with grassroots organizations who have been working tirelessly to facilitate migrants’ access to justice and promote their rights in the workplace and wider society.
Jackie Pollock, who works with one of these organizations in Thailand, shares the view that:
"Consumers in Europe may find it hard to imagine the kind of living and working conditions that the workers producing their clothes must endure. We hope this report will help raise awareness among consumers and that they will support our advocacy for improved labour protection for workers in Asia".
Pranom Somwong from the WH4C added that:
"ASEAN is talking about economic integration by 2015 and has declared that it aims to realise a ‘region of equitable economic development’ which it says will be characterized by narrowing developing gaps and providing better access to opportunities for human development. However, it is apparent that violations of labour rights are routine practice across the three countries studied in this research. It is high time that ASEAN member states improved the rights and benefits of workers in the region".
The 28 page report concludes with a series of recommendations from War on Want addressed to stakeholders in the UK.
Reiko Harima from AMC explained:
"While the recommendations arising from this research focused on UK stakeholders, companies sourcing their products from Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia include other European countries, the USA, and many East Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Labour intensive industries especially garment manufacturing are now talking about shifting their production bases to "new frontiers" such as Burma. We urge companies to be responsible employers by ensuring that workers are able to exercise their rights, receive equitable working conditions and are treated with dignity.
The report is available from the MMN website: http://www.mekongmigration.org/WOW%20Migration%20Report.pdf; and
the War on Want website: