Archive for the ‘migrants’ Category

Migrants are not Commodities-Thailand has a love-hate relationship with migrant workers

February 20, 2008
Nurul Islam
February 19, 2008
Since the December elections in Thailand, much of the country’s politics have been in limbo until a new government takes power. Of all the policies awaiting review, the new Thai government would be wise to prioritize a policy concerning the 2 million migrant workers.Are migrant workers a real threat to the national security of Thailand? Or are they contributing to the economic growth of the country, especially in border areas that were long ago left behind while the rest of the nation developed?

The International Labor Office’s recent report, “Thailand: Economic Contribution of Migrant Workers” by Prof Philip Martin, an expert on international migration from the University of California at Davis, stated: “The Thai labor force of 36 million in 2007 included about 5 percent or 1.8 million migrants.” The report said that last year, migrant workers contributed US $2 billion to the Thai gross domestic product, a figure nearly three times higher than in 1995. It was a clear indication of Thailand’s growing dependency on migrant labor in the 21st century.

However, several articles regarding the migrant worker issue soon surfaced in the Thai media, depicting migrants—over 80 percent of whom are from Burma—as criminals, disease carriers and drug traffickers.

On the other hand, The Nation, an English-language newspaper in Bangkok, ran a feature story titled “Foreign Workers Needed but Alienated” on November 26, 2007. The article shed light on the work of researcher Kulachada Chaipipat who has studied some 1,000 stories of migrant workers appearing in 13 Thai newspapers between 2004 and 2006. Her three-year research found that the local media excessively used negative words, portraying Burmese migrant workers as “unlawful,” “dangerous” and “fearful aliens.”

Even a newborn baby has become a threat to the national security of Thailand in the eyes of certain high-ranking government officials. In November 2007, following a Thai newspaper report that 2,000 migrant babies were born every month in the kingdom, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin called for tighter security measures. In fact, according to the Labor Rights Promotion Network, a Thai NGO, the figure is just 300 babies a month.

It seems that what some Thai authorities want from the migrants is just their labor, not their babies.

Under former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand, for the first time in 2004, introduced a registration policy to legalize illegal migrant workers from its three neighboring countries—Burma, Cambodia and Laos. The registration policy provoked a debate in the Thai government due to its apparent flexibility towards migrants.

The registration policy was, in fact, aimed at calculating the population of the illegal migrants living in the country and driving those in the inner demographic areas back to the border zones.

After 2004, the number of registered migrants sharply declined. In 2007, only 600,000 migrant workers from the three countries registered; just half the number that registered in 2004.

Thailand also introduced a Memorandum of Understanding with its three neighbors in June 2003. The Burmese military government was invited to open temporary passport issuing offices in three major border towns—Myawaddy, Tachilek and Kawthaung—in late 2006.

However, the process of issuing passports to Burmese migrants was never implemented. Neither of the governments involved has publicly commented on why the process was derailed.

One major concern for Burmese migrant workers was that the military authorities would collect “taxes” from their families inside Burma if the bilateral agreement were enforced. There were further concerns over the terms of employment—two years, followed by an extension—a maximum of four years stay in Thailand, after which time, a Burmese worker would be deported with no right to return to Thailand for three years.

Although the agreement intended to eliminate illegal border crossings and the trafficking of workers, it couldn’t hit the target because of the very simple law of supply and demand. The economic dynamics dictated that businesses would import migrant workers when they were needed and kick them out when they were not.

The situation of the migrant worker is like being in a tug-of-war between the strict regulations of government and the capitalist motives behind their exploitation.

Thailand’s incoming government should adopt a more realistic and humanity-based policy on migrant workers. It must reject policies that reflect only the benefits to the governments involved.

Migrant workers are human beings after all, not commodities.

China Defends Olympic Relocation Policy

February 20, 2008

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; Page A14

BEIJING, Feb. 19 — Beijing officials on Tuesday defended their relocation of nearly 15,000 people as part of the massive construction projects that have transformed the capital into a 31-venue showcase for this summer’s Olympic Games.

More than 6,000 households have voluntarily relocated from the venue sites over the past several years and all have been fairly compensated, Zhang Jiaming, vice chair of the Beijing Municipal Construction Committee, told reporters, outlining a policy that has been the focus of petition campaigns and protests, which the Communist Party has tried to suppress.

“The relocation project went very smoothly, so no one was forced out of their homes at any of the venues,” Zhang said. Families who could prove ownership were compensated, on average, about $87,500, enough to allow some displaced residents to pass up government-provided affordable housing, purchase an apartment and buy a new car, Zhang said.

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Wicked winter weather tests China

February 6, 2008
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer 

BEIJING – China tackled its snow crisis with a striking — and uniquely Chinese — display of communist mass mobilization, propaganda and state control.

But for the host of the summer Olympic Games, the weather blitz also laid bare its weaknesses, stretching its transport and energy systems to the limit.

Still, the crisis has wound down just in time for the Lunar New Year holiday, and illustrates the strengths of a one-party system struggling to manage an ever more complex society.

“The essential thing is that the central government has very substantial mobilization powers,” said Joseph Cheng, chairman of the City University of Hong Kong’s Contemporary China Research Center. “Once it sets its priorities, it can really act.”

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China: Muscle Moves Mountains of Snow, Ice

China, Vietnam: State Run Media Paint a Rosey Picture, Ignore Abuse of Populations

China Confirms Man Killed in Stampede; Winter Chaos Continues

February 3, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Government officials of China confirmed on Sunday an earlier report that a rail worker was crushed to death on Friday at Guangzhou as 260,000 people besieged the railroad station.

The government said the incident was regretable and that the army was being used to maintain order.  More than one million army troops have been deployed to remove snow and ice and to serve as crowd control, especially at mobbed rail centers.

Policemen try to control the crowd during a stampede outside ...
Policemen try to control the crowd during a stampede outside a railway station in China’s southern city of Guangzhou February 3, 2008. A stampede at Guangzhou railway station killed one person when frustrated passengers rushed to board trains after days of cancellations because of fierce cold and snow, police confirmed on Sunday.

The Associated Press reported that railway service inched back to normal Sunday in southern China,  just after one person died in a stampede caused by frustrated train passengers who were stranded for days because of snow ahead of the important Lunar New Year holiday.

More than 10,000 vehicles were backed up on an icy section of a highway in central China’s Hunan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.  The vehicles were backed up for nearly 45 miles, even though workers were removing ice from the roads Sunday.

Fog further snarled traffic in central China on Saturday and Sunday.

The freakish weather is now in its fourth week, throttling the country’s densely populated central and eastern regions as tens of millions of travelers scramble to board trains and buses to return home for this month’s holiday.

In southern China passenger train travel was deemed “nearing normal” the government said.

The trains are also needed to move vast amounts of coal, which provides much of China’s electricity.

Normally coal mines use the week-long holiday that starts Wednesday to cut production so equipment repairs can be carried out and their workers can go home, but this year more than 80% of the state-owned mines will run full blast, the State Administration of Working Safety said.


Snowstorms damage China’s reputation

A man rolls a snow ball after a heavy snow in Hangzhou, in east ...
A man rolls a snow ball after a heavy snow in Hangzhou, in east China’s Zhejiang province Saturday Feb. 2, 2008. Heavy fog fell over parts of central China on Sunday, further clogging a transport system already paralyzed by weeks of snow, a day after one person died in a stampede by frustrated train passengers stranded for days.
(AP Photo)

Blizzard Strikes: What Happens in China Different From in the U.S.?

China warns of “tough task” in snow relief

China’s army of migrant workers stranded in winter freeze

February 3, 2008
by Stephanie Wong 

GUANGZHOU, China (AFP) – For Luo Qingming, returning to his village in central China for the New Year holiday is the one bright spot in a year full of back-breaking work and low pay.

But this year, instead of heading home, the 42-year-old factory worker is one of thousands of migrant labourers stranded at the main railway station in the southern city of Guangzhou, a victim of China‘s worst snowfalls in decades.

“I have no money to buy myself a blanket to keep warm at night. I’ve spent days sleeping rough….

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A woman use a towel to stay warm and shelter from the rain at ...
A woman use a towel to stay warm and shelter from the rain at the railway station, in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, on February 2. China’s enormous army of migrant workers — many of whom are already downtrodden — are among the hardest hit by the heavy snow and freezing conditions that have wreaked havoc across large swathes of the country.(AFP/Liu Jin)

Blizzard Strikes: What Happens in China Different From in the U.S.?

February 2, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

When a major snowstorm hits; what are the differences between China and the U.S.?

Answer: Everything.

China is experiencing its worst winter storm in 50 years or more. The event has turned into a near-disaster as tens of millions of travelers have been stranded and more than a million troops have been mobilized both to provide peace and security and to remove snow.

Soldiers shovel snow at a square outside the Nanjing Railway ...
Soldiers shovel snow at a square outside the Nanjing Railway Station in Nanjing, Jiangsu province February 2, 2008. Emergency crews struggled on Saturday to restore power to parts of southern China blacked out for a week by heavy snow as forecasters warned of no quick end to the worst winter weather in 50 years.
(Jeff Xu/Reuters)

In one of China’s train stations, more people are stranded than the entire population of Boston.

At Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport, soldiers were sent out to remove the snow and ice from acres of runways and tarmacs: armed only with shovels.

Snow removal in the U.S. is difficult and costly yet relatively routine due to long term investment in plows, trucks, sand, chemicals and other things.

In China, snow is being removed by anything from brooms made from branches to hundreds of shovel wielding troops. There are virtually no modern American-style snowplow trucks.

In China today, the Prime Minister, all his top communist party dignitaries and President Hu Jintao are on the road ordering local party functionaries to remove snow and ice and trying to apologize to massive hoards of people with bullhorns.

In a howling blizzard with 200,000 people before you, how many people do you think you can reach with a battery powered bullhorn?

In many parts of China today, the electrical grid is broken and disrupted due to ice which brought down power lines.

When three electrical workers were killed while attempting repairs, the Prime Minister met with the families and state-controlled communist TV made the workers into national heroes.

In China today, we see the impact of millions of migrant workers with limited or no human rights. Sure, they produce a wonderment of goods for Good Old Communist Red China and we buy it. But now we see how it is all possible.

China’s economic boom is on the backs of the poor and abused.

China is, in a word, crippled by snow, ice and cold. Vital normal services are paralyzed: like coal delivery, electricity, water service and the food supply and distribution system.

We pray for our Chinese brothers and we also say to the centrally controlled communist government: what gives?

China Confirms Man Killed in Stampede; Winter Chaos Continues

Monday: China Covered in Snow, Fog, Displaced People

Snowstorms damage China’s reputation

February 2, 2008

By David R. Sands
The Washington Times 
February 2, 2008

Snow in China has killed at least 60 persons, sent fuel and food prices soaring, snapped power lines, blocked roads and rail lines, closed mines and airports, shaved a few points off economic growth for the year, and prevented millions of travelers from getting home on one of the biggest holidays of the year.

Airport workers clear snow and ice next to a snow covered Air ...
Airport workers clear snow and ice next to a snow covered Air China plane, after heavy snowfalls again caused long delays and cancellations at Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport, on February 2. China warned the worst of its savage winter weather was not yet over as it doubled the number of troops aiding winter storm relief efforts to more than one million.
(AFP/Mark Ralston)

But the most long-term damage from the two weeks of winter storms may be to the reputation of the central government in Beijing.
More bad weather was in the forecast for the country’s beleaguered southern and eastern regions as China’s communist leaders struggled to dig out from a natural disaster that has exposed glaring domestic weaknesses in the globe’s emerging economic superpower.

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China warns worst not over in weather crisis

February 2, 2008

GUANGZHOU, China (AFP) – China warned Saturday the worst was not over in its national weather crisis as desperate holiday travellers jammed transport hubs and others endured bitter winter storms without power or water.
Passengers walk past a row of Chinese soldiers near the railway ... 
Passengers walk past a row of Chinese soldiers near the railway station, in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, on February 2. China warned the worst was not over in its national weather crisis as desperate crowds trying to get home jammed transport hubs and others braved the frigid cold without power or water.
(AFP/Liu Jin) 

Bracing for still more foul weather and an accelerating travel rush, China has doubled the number of troops and paramilitary forces aiding winter storm relief efforts to more than a million, state media reported.

The worst winter in decades has caused massive transport bottlenecks and power outages across wide areas in the lead-up to next week’s Lunar New Year, China’s biggest annual holiday.

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Migrants are China’s ‘factories without smoke’

February 2, 2008
By Alexandra Harney
February 2, 2008

Editor’s note: Alexandra Harney is a Hong Kong-based writer and the author of the forthcoming book “The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage” (Penguin Press, 2008).

HONG KONG, China (CNN) — In the crowds still stranded by snow at train stations around China stand some of the country’s most valuable economic assets: migrant workers.


A migrant worker, right, joins a queue waiting to board trains this past week in Shanghai, China.

This group of 150 million to 200 million farmers — more than the population of the United Kingdom, France and Australia combined — account for the majority of employees in China’s world-beating manufacturing sector, the bulk of its coal miners and most of its construction workers.

During the past two decades, according to a conservative estimate from UNESCO and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, migrants have contributed 16 percent of gross domestic product growth.

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China storms cause $7.5B in damages

February 1, 2008
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer 

BEIJING – Three weeks of crippling snow storms across China have inflicted $7.5 billion in damages, the government said Friday, as it announced a $700 million relief fund for farmers.

The freakish weather — the country’s worst in five decades — has paralyzed China’s densely populated central and eastern regions just as tens of millions of travelers were seeking to board trains and buses to return home for this month’s Lunar New Year.

The storms have killed at least 60 people, closed roads, disabled the rail system, destroyed crops and exacerbated a coal shortage, forcing power plants to shut down and factories to cut production.

At a news conference….

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