Fri 30 Jan 2009
Filed under: News,On The Border
Dire economic circumstances continue to drive Burmese workers to seek employment in Thailand, in spite of the country’s worsening economic situation and unusual numbers of unemployed workers leaving the Kingdom.
According to checkpoint officials and brokers responsible for smuggling migrant workers into Thailand, the number of workers seeking employment in the Kingdom has not changed, though the number of available jobs is decreasing.
“The number of workers [leaving for Thailand] this year and last year is the same,” said a New Mon State Party official from the Tadein checkpoint along the Three Pagodas Pass to Thanbyuzayat (Thanpyuzayart) road. The road is the primary dry-season link between the Three Pagodas Pass border crossing and interior Mon and Karen states.
“I think the number of workers entering Thailand is the same this year as last year. I don’t know exactly how many people, but my business is the same as before,” said a broker in Three Pagodas Pass. Two other brokers also working in the Three Pagodas Pass area independently agreed.
Job prospects in Thailand, meanwhile, are at all time lows. The country’s overall economy is sliding backwards, with UBS, one the country’s most respected brokerage firms, recently estimating that growth rates will drop to negative 2% in 2009. The slowdown is being felt amongst migrant workers, and news agencies like the Irrawaddy began reporting in November the layoffs of thousands of Burmese workers.
The number of workers returning to Burma appears to be on the increase. A broker based in Mae Sot, Thailand, told IMNA that, in the past, he regularly returned three groups of workers to Burma each week. Now, he said, he is returning a group of workers every day.
Weak job prospects and the flow of unemployed peers heading home does not seem to be daunting outward-bound workers, however. “People know in Thailand there are fewer jobs than before. But there are jobs still because there are things the Thai citizens do not want to do, so Burmese people can find a job,” a broker in Three Pagodas Pass explained.
Workers from Mon State describe an economy shell-shocked by plummeting rubber and paddy prices. Rubber and paddy and Mon State’s two primary products, and with rubber worth just a 25% of its 2008 value and paddy 75%, the economy is in shambles.
“The economy is not good for our family. In our village, we just have the paddy fields and the paddy price is down. So we have many problems. My mother who is already working in Thailand called me to come work with her, so I have to go,” a 15-year-old boy from Mon State on his way to work in Thailand told IMNA.
“We have to rely on our plantations. Now rubber and betel nut prices have gone down, but food still costs the same,” said a woman from Mon State, 30, interviewed near Three Pagodas Pass as she and her husband made their way to Thailand. “We cannot earn enough to eat. So even though we hear that there are fewer jobs in Thailand, we still think it will be better than here. We may not want to go, but we have to go.”