Programmes aim to combat ill effects of human trafficking
Ranong Province is speeding up programmes on life-quality development for children of Myanmar workers, in a bid to cut down on human trafficking crimes.
Bordered by Myanmar on both land and the Andaman Sea, Ranong has seen the issue of Myanmar immigrants – as well as Rohingya boat people – illegally crossing the border into the Kingdom for labouring jobs and a “better life.” Many come with families.
As a result, Ranong has became a province most at risk from human trafficking – and is one among seven provinces selected for pilot integrated human-trafficking crackdown programmes.
Ranong deputy governor Viroj Saengsivarith said the province’s population stands at 183,079, with some 50,000-80,000 Myanmar people as its “unregistered population,” plus some 1,000 Thai-descended Myanmar nationals.
Most Myanmar immigrants work in the fishery industry or as general workers. The human trafficking situation here is still relatively slight with some cases of forced labour and prostitution. However, the province is at a high risk for such crimes, and efforts to tackle human trafficking are receiving co-operation from all agencies and from Myanmar.
“Myanmar people enter Thailand using a border pass that allows a 14-day stay – or a temporary border pass that allows a seven-day stay. Some hide in the border areas when their days are up and wait for Thailand, suffering from a severe labour shortage, to allow them to stay and work longer in the Kingdom.
The alien workers issue has also affected the Thai Public Health System with medical expenses of around Bt1,900 per head per year. Since Thailand hasn’t been prepared to carry such a burden, the medical service quality is being weighed down.
“Myanmar workers in Thailand also create a workers’ network linked to Thai and Myanmar labour agents, so human trafficking problems exist but aren’t so severe,” Wiroj said.
Another issue concerns Myanmar workers’ children – including about 2,000 pre-schoolers – as they arrive with families now living in 42 communities there. After Thailand signed the anti-human trafficking memorandum of understanding, all public or private agencies, from Thailand and Myanmar, promoted the importance of education for these children.
Ranong primary education zone deputy head Prarom Nakbumrung said the Learning Centre for Quality of Life Development at the Thai-Myanmar Border functions as a school for Myanmar children and there were 13 such centres covering 3,000-4,000 pupils.
The centres concentrate on providing Thai language, English language, Maths and Social Studies – while also instilling values such as gratitude to Thailand’s national institutions, religion and monarchy and the Thai lifestyle. Thai public health officials also take care of the pupils.
At the nine-year-old centre visited by The Nation, there were 678 pupils learning from Thai and Myanmar teachers. The education was provided from pre-school up to the seventh-year primary class as according to the Myanmar education system.
Prarom said if Myanmar children weren’t educated, they could become victims of exploiters, leading to social problems. “We can’t reject Myanmar workers, as Thais won’t do hard work in fisheries, so we need to prepare an education and life quality development for these children too,” he added.
Prarom said the Office of Basic Education Commission had a plan to allow the exchange of education transcripts so Myanmar children who’d completed a Myanmar basic education could study at Thai universities. These children, who’d be able to speak Thai, English and Myanmar languages, would have better chances in life.
Thai language teacher Paveena Pitakpiyawan said the centre’s Thai classes had been taught since kindergarten, based on the non-formal education curriculum. “When recruiting new students, we arrange exams such as Thai language tests and Myanmar language tests to check their academic ability to determine which class to be in,” she explained. The classes emphasised love, unity and patriotism for Thailand, while the Myanmar history classes would focus more on historic tales, she said.
A Myanmar student, identified only as Hawamon, said she felt comfortable studying at the centre where she could learn about discipline and how to live life, because if Myanmar children didn’t study they would be scolded by others and that made her feel uneasy. “Staying in Thailand, I want to be a good girl to show Thai people that Myanmar children can be good like Thais too,” she said.
Hawamon said many Myanmar children hadn’t received schooling as she had, because their families were so poor the kids had to work. She said she believed that if Thais helped provide the education opportunities for them, their quality of life would improve.