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Activists warn of migrant women woes

8 March 2013 - Bangkok Post. Domestic assaults and abortions on the rise in alien worker communities.

Activists who work with migrant workers have raised the issue to mark the occasion of International Women's Day today.

Zar Zar of the Burmese Women's Union said the problems of drunk male workers assaulting their wives, divorces and abortion are growing.

"Men usually drink to entertain themselves after work. They are stressed but when drinking, they feel relief," Zar Zar said.

Khaing Khaing Tun, a 37-year-old daycare volunteer in tambon Khirirat of Phop Phra district in Tak province, said migrant women who are assaulted by their husbands are seeking help from her facility. They do not want their husbands to get drunk and fail to control themselves, she said.

Some women seek shelter to avoid domestic violence and say that under the influence of alcohol their husbands turn from people who are decent into much harsher types who hit their wives.

Tradition teaches them to bow to husbands but some women are maltreated so badly that they must leave.

Unwanted pregnancy is another common problem among migrant workers.

Khaing Khaing Tun said migrant workers do not want to get pregnant because it stops them from working.

"They live in poverty, so they are unready to raise children. That's why some workers turn to abortion," she said.

Many pregnant alien workers have consulted Khaing Khaing Tun about abortions.

She tried to convince them to keep their babies. She succeeded with some women, while others stood firm in their decision to avoid future problems.

Those who choose to have an abortion must go to local illegal service providers.

Most migrant workers in Phop Phra district are employed in the agricultural sector. They have seasonal jobs to plant, grow and gather crops including corn, sugarcane, potato, chilli and carrot.

Daw Cho, a 49-year-old volunteer at the Drop-In Centre, said unwanted pregnancy is a common problem among migrant teenage workers as few are ready to raise a child. They have no savings and must work.

Last year a female migrant who worked in Bangkok sought advice from Mrs Daw Cho on having an abortion because both she and her husband had to work and could not afford to raise a child.

The woman had entered her seventh month of pregnancy. The volunteer convinced the woman to keep the baby. She warned her of the danger to both the mother and the baby of having an abortion.

She promised to find an adoptive family for the baby.

The migrant woman handed her baby to the volunteer early this year. The volunteer intended to keep the baby for one month while looking for a suitable adoptive parent. Later she decided to adopt the child herself.

Siriporn Phusaengthongchai, a health project coordinator of child rights organisation Plan International, said domestic violence and family planning are key issues on the occasion of International Women's Day this year.

Activists who work with migrant workers say domestic violence and teenage pregnancy are growing problems.

Many of those with unwanted pregnancies return to their homeland and abandon their children in Thailand and authorities have yet to take steps to protect their young.


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