For a better life: While migrants workers may work under tough conditions, they are able to make ends meet.
POVERTY in his home country brought 27-year-old Chai to a neighbouring nation that is seen as prosperous — Thailand. He left his village in Cambodia three years ago as there were hardly any jobs.
“I have children and a wife to take care of. I want to save up so that my children can get a good education and a better life.”
Chai, who works at a construction site on Bang Na-Trat Road in the Thai capital of Bangkok, explained that there were few jobs available in Cambodia and most of them paid very little, compared to Thailand, where there are many jobs.
“I want to become a Thai national,” he says, adding that the minimum daily wage in Cambodia was 100 Baht (RM10) compared to 300 Baht (RM30) in Thailand.
But it is not all “sunshine and rainbows” working here. Chai says he was cheated on his very first day. Then there were other times when wages were not paid or slow to come.
There isn’t much he can do but when the going gets really tough, Chai moves on to another job.
Chai is one of the 2.2 million migrant workers in Thailand.
Solah Por, 24, moved from Myanmar five years ago and now works at a restaurant on Bang Na-Trat. He says he overcame the language barrier thanks to his kind employer who taught him Thai, and in a year he was almost fluent. When he was 17, his parents told him to come to Thailand for a job because there were no opportunities in Myanmar.
Over the past five years, he has only returned home twice.
“I was looking for a factory job, when I met Auntie (his female employer) and she hired me. Life in Thailand is comfortable. At first I missed home, but now I don’t,” he adds.
Saknarong Payungsak, a representative of a Myanmar workers’ organisation in Thailand, said migrant workers were cheated often and many were paid less than the 300 Baht that was the legal minimum daily wage.
Initially, when the minimum wage was 150 Baht to 200 Baht, many workers earned extra from overtime. These days there is hardly any overtime but they somehow make ends meet.
“If they complain, they face threats, which terrifies them,” he says.
Yet, it is a far cry from being unemployed and living in poverty. It is still so much better than what it is back home, adds a farm worker from Cambodia.
Raks Thai Foundation official Wanna Butseng, who oversees migrant workers in the Trat and Chanthaburi provinces which are in coastal areas of the east said there were some 50,000 migrant workers in the area, mostly Cambodians from Koh Kong and Mon people from Myanmar.
However, only about 10,000 of them hold legal documents, she said. Most of these workers are in the fishery and farming sectors, and their most common problems are drug abuse, alcoholism and fist-fighting.
“If these workers have kind employers, they are happy, but if there is any problem, they can just cross the border and go home,” she said. — Asia News Network