For decades Myanmar nationals of all ethnic backgrounds have migrated to Thailand in search of economic opportunity as a result of political repression, human rights violations, civil war, economic woes, religious persecution and natural disaster in Myanmar. Currently there are 2 million registered Myanmar migrants and an estimated 1 to 3 million more undocumented migrants living and working in Thailand. Thus the Myanmar migrant community is vital to Thailand’s economy as the migrant workforce makes up 10% of the total labor force employed in Thailand.
Employment opportunities are plentiful in Thailand, but come at a cost as the migrant worker is highly vulnerable to rights and trafficking exploitation. This is because migrants generally are only able to obtain low level, hard labor jobs often avoided by Thai citizens and largely ignored by the Thai authorities responsible for regulating these industries. Exploitation takes the form of unsafe workplaces, pay less than minimum wage; if received at all, employers seizing migrant legal documents to gain control over the migrant worker, long working hours, as well as physical and mental abuses. The migrants’ lack of understanding regarding their entitled rights and the fear to demand rights recognition leads to countless violations receiving no legal attention or justice.