In recent years, millions of people from Burma have migrated to Thailand. The Thai Ministry of Labor registered close to 812,984 migrants from Burma in 2010. Many more Burmese enter Thailand illegally and do not register with the government; the latest academic research estimates a total number of four million. Most have left Burma in search of security and safety as a result of internal conflict, militarization and minority persecution, they enter Thailand seeking a better life and in sending money to the family they left behind.
Burma-Thailand border can be considered as easy to pass. In Kanchaburi provinces, Burmese migrants can cross the bridge into Mae Sot. One-day passes are available at official checkpoints, and it is also possible to walk across the river during the dry season. In the South, migrants cross through Ranong city, which maintains a major flow of migrant workers. Some of these migrants then come to the Central region aiming to reach the Bangkok area with the hope of better wages.
When in Thailand and despite the relative economic security of the Thai labor market, migrants remain in a highly vulnerable position. Around 80% of all migrants in Thailand are Burmese and most of them remain undocumented as ‘illegal’ workers. Burmese migrants tend to get the jobs Thai people do not want to do. Yet rather than upgrading workplace safety and improving wages, working conditions, and management practices, these same Thai employers turn to migrant workers who offer a fully flexible and cheaper workforce willing to do dirty, difficult, and dangerous jobs. Most of them live in constant fear of arrest and deportation back to Burma. As a result of their desperate financial situation and illegal status and the fact that most of them do not speak Thai nor understand Thai labor laws, it is common for employers to exploit their workers. Human and labor rights are abused on a daily basis, whilst ‘illegal’ migrants are often too scared to seek help, which is in any case is near impossible for them to access due to a lack of legal assistance.
Female workers, particularly domestic servants, are also extremely vulnerable to sexually motivated attacks. Many migrants have experienced discrimination and racially motivated violence or attempted murder, which has on occasion proven to be instigated by their employers. Gender discrimination plays a significant role in female migration, whilst multiplying their vulnerability within Thailand and resulting in a twofold marginalization. Women are pushed to migrate for a number of gender-specific reasons (sexual violence, domestic abuse, traditional responsibility for family support, lack of educational opportunities in Burma). Additionally, they are pulled by employment opportunities that constitute a gendered demand in low-skilled occupations in factories and private households. Many of these work situations involve severe exploitation, confinement, work without legal or any pay and violence. According to their situations, Burmese migrants are one of the most vulnerable populations as an easy target for Human traffic (sex industry for the women and slave labor).