May Day migrant protesters demand equal rights

International Workers’ Day celebrations were held all over Rangoon and among migrant communities in Thailand on Thursday.

In Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar, trade union leaders and members, including the director of International Trade Unions Federation (Burma), the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) liaison office and representatives from Myanmar Trade Unions Federation, gathered in a show of unity.

“Today we have representatives from the agriculture sector as well as the industrial and transportation sectors together to unite, regardless of differences in their work sectors,” said Michael from the Agriculture and Farmers Federation of Myanmar.

This is the third year that May Day celebrations could be held publicly in Burma since military rule ended in 2011.

“We have government officials also joining the event, including the deputy labour minister, which is really encouraging for us,” Michael said.

In the Thai border town of Mae Sot, hundreds of Thai and Burmese workers marched through the streets carrying banners and waving flags.

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And in Chiang Mai, 200 Thai and Burmese workers marched to demand better labour rights.

Protest leaders read out a ten-point statement, which included equal labour rights for Thai and Burmese workers, and the formation of a committee with both Thai and Burmese speakers, to ensure the minimum wage is paid.

Migrant worker, Hein Htet, said more labour officers are needed at the Burmese Embassy to help resolve migrant issues.

“There is one labour attaché at the Burmese Embassy tasked to resolve issues with the migrant community across Thailand. This is nowhere near sufficient,” Hein Htet said.

“We would like the two governments to have a discussion to appoint more labour officers in provinces with large migrant populations.”

Chiang Mai’s provincial governor, Wichian Puttiwinyu, promised to hand their demands to Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

 

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