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In Thailand, Myanmar migrants’ illicit unions fight to be heard

Aljazeera, Thailand, 30 May 2022 - When Po Kyaw left for work on board a new ship in the coastal town of Ranong last month, his wife and sister-in-law reminded him to be careful despite his 10 years of experience working on boats in Thailand.

But just one day later, Po Kyaw was killed at sea while performing a check on the propeller.

“I was worried when he left the house,” his sister-in-law told Al Jazeera, asking to use a pseudonym for her brother to protect his identity. “I told him, ‘When you go underwater, take care. You’ve done this before, you’ll do well.’”

Po Kyaw’s family were initially unaware they were entitled to compensation under Thailand’s social security system that would help support his widow and five children. After several attempts at convincing the family to pursue compensation, a local fishing activist finally convinced them to get more information.

Po Kyaw’s case and his family’s unfamiliarity with their rights are not isolated incidents. Myanmar nationals make up 80 percent of all migrants employed in Thailand’s agricultural, fishing and manufacturing sectors, according to a 2020 study by Mahidol University, and the number of people from Myanmar fleeing to the neighbouring country has only accelerated since Myanmar’s February 2021 military coup. Data compiled by the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests that the output of such workers accounts for up to 6.6 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).



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