Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers
Lao Federation of Trade Unions - Labour Protection Department
Capacity Building Workshop on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on Protection and Promotion the Rights of Migrant Workers Xayabuly Province, Laos, 5-6 August 2011
The Lao is a landlocked country of less than six million and shares border with China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. In 2005, Laos a “Least Developed Country” (LDC) had gross national per capita income of US$491. In 2004, 71 percent of Laos population lived on less than US$2 a day, and 23 percent on less than US$1 a day. Around 85 % of the population lived in 11,000 rural villages in 142 districts in 16 provinces. In 2005, about 27 percent of the population lived in urban areas, with one major city Vientiane.
Migration has been occurring for a long time, particularly in developing countries and the least developed countries, including Lao PDR. The Lao PDR shares a 1,800 km long border with Thailand. The Lao people are crossing borders into Thailand for long term and short term work. Some stay in Thailand for more than three months while others simply go across the border during the day and come return to Laos the same evening.
Today with globalization, increasing use of information technology and the increasing numbers of groups and agents are seeking to exploit the migrant workers from remote areas of Laos to cross-border into Thailand for labour. Both the Lao people living in the south along borders with Thailand as well as the people who are living in the north of Laos, are traveling to Thailand to find jobs.
According to LFTU’s survey on the migration situation in 3 villages in 3 districts of Savannakhet province in May 2009 reveals that there were 7,650 people (3,961 or 52% women) who migrated internally and abroad. Of this number, 1,097 (735 or 67% women) migrated to Thailand. This is just the figure for 3 villages. Many of these migrants are vulnerable to abuses in the migration process, they migrate largely through irregular channels, have limited safe migration and rights awareness, etc.
Many young migrant workers and young women are easily influenced by the members of their families, their friends, relatives, including recruitment agents to take the irregular route.
The roles and responsibilities of the Lao Federation of Trade Union (LFTU) is to protect the rights of Lao workers who are working inside and outside the country. However, in practice, fulfilling this role has become a challenge. There has been limited guidance and support to develop action plan on labour migration and migrant workers. In addition, an emerging trend that LFTU needs consideration is the inbound migration to Lao PDR from neighbouring countries.
Xayabuly province is located in the northern part of Laos, shares border with Thailand, it is composed of 13 districts. In the past, people mostly work in sawmill factories. There were many foreign investors to operate businesses related to wood processing; saw mill factories and furniture factories. Recently, the Lao government do not allow cutting of trees and reduce the number of sawmill factories and placed limitation on logging quotations. Therefore, the workers who lost their jobs in sawmills are looking for new jobs in Thailand and some cross borders as undocumented workers.
In 2010, the workshop on protecting migrant workers organized in Khammoun province on 28 – 29 July 2010. This year 2011, the Workshop is organize in
Kanthao District, Xayabuly with local trade union leaders from 13 districts of
Xayabury. The workshop is organized by LFTU and TF-AMW to build the capacity of the stakeholders.
The TF-AMW organized the workshop together with the local partner the Lao Federation of Trade Union (LFTU) from August 5-6, in Xayabuly Provinces. The Workshop was earlier planned to be held in March 2011 but it was postponed till August 2011.
The workshop promoted awareness on ASEAN as well as the ASEAN
Declaration on Protection and Promotion the Rights of Migrant Workers. The workshop panel was co-chaired by Mr.
Bounthavy Phouthavong, Vice-President of Xayabuly province trade union; Mr. Samanxay Khanthanuxay, Head of Labour
Protection Department, LFTU and Mr. Sinapan Samydorai, TFAMW.
There were 29 participants including participants from the LFTU center, Labour department, Foreign department, Immigration department, youth union, eleven districts trade union and provincial trade union of Xayabuly.
The Panel and discussion stated with brief presentations on the following:
The second panel and discussion involve the participants from each of the 13 districts reporting on the situation and challenges face on protecting the rights of the migrant workers. Later they were divided into 4 discussion groups to plan activities to overcome the challenges and promote awareness on safe-migration. The workshop recommendation includes the following:
Media News on the Workshop:
key parts of the proceedings was telecast on the following week to create public awareness (17 Aug - Wed:10: 00 am and 5:00 pm; 19 Aug -Fri:8:00 am on Lao star TV; and on 21 Aug -Sun: 6:30 am and 6:30 pm). The LFTU Newspaper also published information on the workshop and the situation of the migrant workers in Xayabuly Province.