Around 3 million migrant workers from neighbouring countries, like Cambodia or Myanmar, live in Thailand. Many of them moved in without valid documents or work permits; they are thus undocumented, illegal immigrants, so-called “sans-papiers”. They work in the informal economy, without any legal protection, and can be mercilessly exploited.

The labour conditions are particularly poor in the deep-sea fishing and farming sectors. Especially the remote palm, rubber, corn and manioc plantations. Migrant workers in these jobs rarely even earn the low minimum wage. They are obliged to do unpaid overtime, get no maternity protection and have no other social benefits. They have to live in permanent fear of immediate firing or deportation to Cambodia or Myanmar.  In short, this is often modern slavery.

Solidar Suisse supports migrant workers in the Thai fishing and farming industries through its partner, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) and through local members of that network. MMN fights for the rights of migrant workers. To achieve this, around 400 lawyers and activists in the home countries and in Thailand are receiving training. This better familiarises the lawyers with the migrant workers’ situation and helps them support the “sans-papiers”. Finally, it is important to make the political leaders throughout the Mekong region aware of the problems of the undocumented migrant workers and to help them improve their living conditions.

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Interview

In pursuit of decent work

Sanjiv Pandita explains why states make it so easy for corporations to exploit their populations