Migrant Situation update in Mekong Region in October 2016

Migrant Situation update in Mekong Region in October 2016


  • Thailand is relaxing its strict rules against abortion to cover fetuses with birth defects linked to the Zika virus, doubling the deadline from 12 to 24 weeks for the procedure.[i]

Roots of migration.

  • According to a spokesman for the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), Myanmar army units attacked a drug-rehab camp in Mong Kung township managed by local villagers in violation of the “nationwide cease-fire agreement.” 2,000 villagers were displaced to Tonlaw village as a result of the conflict.[i]
  • Residents have fled the town of Mongyang in route to Kengtung, fearing escalating conflict between the Burmese Army and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).[ii]
  • Myanmar government troops have engaged in intense fighting with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) near Namhsan township. No deaths have been reported, but there have been injuries.[iii]
  • Approximately 5,900 people in Kayin State remain displaced in Hlaingbwe Township because of fighting between the Border Guard Force & other armed groups.[iv]
  • On October 25th, the UNHCR began the voluntary, assisted return of 68 Myanmar refugees who had been living in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. The UNHCR stressed that this does not mean mass returns will follow.[v]

Borders and regional development.

  • Thailand is developing SEZs in 10 provinces. Their combined size will be 6,220 square kilometers. Of the 10 provinces, 2 border Myanmar, 2 border Cambodia, 2 border Malaysia, 3 border Laos, & 1 borders with both Myanmar & Laos.[i]
  • As of August, 12 factories had opened in Myanmar’s Thilawa SEZ, and another 25 are expected to open soon. Investors in the Thilawa SEZ are from 13 foreign countries including Japan, Singapore, China, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Panama, Malaysia & South Korea.[ii]

  • A Thailand-based migrant rights group estimates that each month more than 7,000 Myanmar citizens go to Malaysia or Thailand for work.[i]
  • Myanmar’s Ministry of Labor says that they currently help Burmese migrants legally remit their money from overseas & find a job once they return to Myanmar.[ii]
  • The Ministry says it is in the process of implementing economic policies to discourage Burmese citizens from migrating for work.[iii]
  • As part of these changes, the Ministry announced that starting January 1st, 2017, Burmese workers looking for work abroad will be required to apply directly with employment agencies for their travel documentation. Under the current system, employment brokers are able to apply for passports and visas on behalf of workers.[iv]
  • According to Thailand’s Defense Minister General Prawit, the country is considering a migrant worker management plan for 2017-2022 that aims to reduce the country’s dependence on migrant workers, install a migrant monitoring system, & raise the standards of skilled workers.[v]

Climate change.

  • The UN & environmentalists warn that the effects of severe drought will hurt Mekong countries for years to come. They also said that Mekong countries should expect extreme weather events, and that governments should strengthen their early disaster preparedness and response activities.[i]


[xi] Ibid.

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