On Monday 4th April 2011, Thailand witnessed another terrible road accident. 16 Burmese migrant workers were killed and nearly 50 injured when the truck that they were packed onto collided with another truck in Samut Sakorn Province, near Bangkok, Thailand. The workers were on their way to work at a food processing factory in Mahachai. Many of these workers had followed the new rules and regulations to have their nationality verified and held temporary passports.
Every morning and evening all over Thailand there are trucks overcrowded with workers, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Laotian, men and women heading to and from work. In some cases, these trucks are organized by brokers who arrive at a designated spot every day, pick up workers and drop them off at different work sites. In others, the trucks are organized by the factories to bring in the workers. They are not hidden. The workers are in full view of everyone. The trucks often speed through towns throwing the workers who are hanging on for dear life half way out of the truck. At the end of a tiring day on the construction site, the workers can barely stand up, but in many cases, they don’t have to make much effort, because the trucks are so tightly packed that it would be impossible to fall over, but unfortunately not impossible to be thrown out. Laws which enforce seat belts and crash helmets seem to be of no use when it is possible to pack workers into the back of a truck with no safety protection whatsoever. All vehicles in Thailand must be insured, and all insurances will specify how many people can be carried in a vehicle. But these trucks are rarely stopped by the police. Maybe because the police/immigration also have the same practice and overcrowd their own trucks when deporting migrant workers1.
Transporting workers in this manner had become the norm because:
a) Any migrant worker without a temporary passport (more than a million) cannot travel freely, and therefore have to rely on brokers to transport them from place to place, including from their living quarters to their work places.
b) Without other systems in place, the brokers running the trucks provide the only link that migrants have with the work available for that day. The brokers make their money by being the middle men between the contractor and the migrants and aim to make as much profit as possible. They cram as many migrant workers as they can into their truck and then deliver
them to different work sites, collecting a fee at each
c) In most towns in Thailand, apart from Bangkok, there are very limited, if any public transport systems. The alternative systems, the songteow (red bus), are too expensive for workers on minimum wage.
d) Migrant workers have faced restrictions on getting driving licences and thus cannot ride motorbikes as other workers do.
The MMN and ANM are deeply upset by this further loss of lives of young migrants. This dangerous practice must be stopped before more workers lose their lives or are permanently disabled. We call on the Royal Thai Government to ensure that:
- The families of all workers killed are fully compensated.
- The injured workers receive full free hospital care and are compensated for loss of work time
- Safety regulations for all forms of transportation are strictly enforced, with careful attention to the safety of the workers in the process of enforcing the law
- Public transport systems are improved, especially in towns which have grown dramatically due to increased investment, economic growth and increased population of migrant workers
- To decrease the dependency on brokers, job placement services should be available for migrants to find employment by themselves
- That restrictions on travel are lifted for all registered migrants
- That all registered migrants are allowed to take driving tests and own their own motorbikes.
Mekong Migration Network(MMN) is a network of civil society organizations from Burma, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan, China who have been working together for the last 10 years to promote the rights of migrants in the Mekong region through joint research, advocacy and capacity building. The MMN has 37 member organizations.
Action Network for Migrants in Thailand (ANM) is composed of community-based organizations
(CBOs) and NGOs working with migrant workers from Burma, Lao PDR and Cambodia. ANM’s
vision is to realize safe migration and fair work in the Mekong region.