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Tsunami Disaster Update Thailand: Burmese Migrant Workers Without Shelter or Assistance/Labour Ministry Report on Employment Situation

Posted to the IUF website 05-Jan-2005

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According to information provided by the Human Rights Education Institution of Burma (HREIB), the situation of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand is particularly difficult in the aftermath of the December 26 tsunami disaster. Thousands of undocumented Burmese were working in tourism, restaurants and tourism-related construction. On the basis of field surveys, the HREIB reports that 500 Burmese migrant workers have died and at least 2,500 are missing from the resort areas of Ranong and Phuket. These workers have no access to emergency services and support. Thai news sources have reported that 1000 documented Burmese workers arrived in Ronang, attempting to return to Burma, but that Burmese authorities refused to let them cross the border, telling them to re-enter the country further north.

The Burmese military dictatorship has officially acknowledged only 90 dead and 17 destroyed villages as a result of the tsunami, despite the country's long coastline. A cover-up of the full extent of the loss of life and material damage is widely suspected.

On January 4, Thailand's Labour Ministry announced that 302 workers were killed, 357 injured and 438 reported missing in the southern provinces of Phuket, Phangnga, Krabi and Ranong, with the number of jobless now at 20,000. The ministry has stated that workers now unemployed as a result of the tsunami will receive a cash compensation of 2,000 baht (some USD 51). The danger exists that this will be a one-off payment with compensation to be ended when the Ministry declares the tourism industry back to normal.