The BWI expresses its solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of workers and their families across Thailand who has been affected by the most recent floods to have hit the country, the worst in over 70 years.
While the floods affects all people in Thailand, undoubtedly those hit the hardest are the people who do not have access to social support networks and often live in temporary and precarious accommodation. Migrant workers have been the most deeply impacted by the current flooding. When the homes, factories and worksites of migrant workers are hit by the floods there is often nowhere for them to turn, and returning home is difficult, dangerous or costly.
Current estimates of the damage from the flooding include more than 9,000 factories inundated with water and 660,000 jobs at risk. Approximately 200,000 migrant workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia in flood stricken areas have been badly affected and many more are expected to be affected as the flood water reaches other Districts of Bangkok. Currently only 250 Burmese migrant workers are living in shelters in the Greater Bangkok area, while reports from border areas of Thailand cite thousands of workers returning to Burma every day, with more than 10,000 returning in one day on October 29.
Compounding the difficulties migrant workers are facing from the flooding, as they flee the rising flood waters there is the always present danger of being arrested by police for being found outside of the geographic areas specified in their work permits. In addition, there are reports that migrant workers returning to Burma have also faced extortion from military and militia groups trying to capitalise on the misery and suffering of their countrymen. Thai immigration officials also are reportedly profiting greatly at this time and the Thai government has not introduced flexible measures to ease suffering of returning migrants.
The BWI calls on the Thai government, civil society groups, and trade unions to provide much needed support and assistance to the at-risk migrant worker communities in Thailand. Relief in the way of water, food, accommodation and access to employment and income generating activities is difficult to access and insufficient. However, with concerted efforts from the trade union movement to utilise their networks and reach out to communities we can ensure that the suffering of migrants and others affected by the flooding is eased.
The BWI supports the current efforts by some trade union organisations to assist migrant worker communities and is providing support to some of the most affected.
The BWI also call on the Thai Government to urgently prioritise creation of a clear policy to ensure protection of migrant flood victims, whatever they choose to do in their precarious situation.