Donors aid Myanmar workers in Thailand
SOME 162 on-strike Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand’s Lopburi province are now reliant on donations in order to purchase food, as a stand-off with factory management over unpaid wages continues. The employees of a vermicelli noodle factory in Ban Pon town stopped work last week, said the Thailand-based Aid Alliance Committee (AAC).
Ko Shine Aung, a representative of the workers, told The Myanmar Times on August 21 that the migrants had worked at the factory since May this year. All were on a two-year contract through Moon Beam overseas employment agency. He said it is not the first time the factory has failed to pay wages on time.
“We have stopped working since August 17 because we were unpaid. We have no food because we have no money to buy it. The AAC and other organisations have donated foods and water,” Ko Shine Aung said.
The factory’s owners reportedly agreed in writing to pay the workers’ salaries on August 13 and 28, after discussions between the Myanmar embassy, the employment agency and Thai labour officials in July.
But payments due on August 13 failed to eventuate – and the workers say they plan to take action.
“We will sue the agency because they sent us to this factory ... The agency has failed to solve our grievances effectively in the past. We often had to protest to get our unpaid wages,” said Ko Shine Aung.
The Moon Beam agency and Myanmar embassy officials have agreed to meet with factory owners on August 24 to resolve the dispute, said the AAC.
“The factory owner told us that they can’t pay the wages to the workers because he has no work orders,” AAC representative U Khaing Gyi told The Myanmar Times. “We couldn’t understand why the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation asked the workers to keep waiting … because workers have no money and no food,” he said.
The AAC and local civil society groups have been collecting private donations in order to supply the workers with food and water.
Concerns over possible breaches of a memorandum of understanding between the Thai and Myanmar governments has meant the workers have had to stay put while the dispute is being resolved, said U Khaing Gyi.
‘We have stopped working ... because we were unpaid. We have no food because we have no money to buy it.’
Ko Shine Aung
“We have requested the workers not to go out, and to wait for [the result of the August 24 meeting], because if they go out on the street they will be illegal according to the MoU,” he said.
The Myanmar Times attempted to contact Myanmar embassy officials in Thailand, but was unsuccessful.
The Moon Beam agency’s Ma May Zu Hlaing said she would travel to Thailand this week in support of the workers.
The Aid Alliance Committee donates food to workers in Thailand.