Policy Dialog on the Implementation of ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers

YANGON , MYANMAR– on Saturday, February 29, 2020 Human Rights Working Group, in collaboration with Public Legal Aid Network (PLAN), Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers and Migrant Worker Rights Network, held a multi-stakeholder policy dialog discussing the implementation of ASEAN Consensus. This meeting brought together fifty-three participants from varied sectors including the government, UN agencies, political parties, international non-governmental organizations, national and local non-governmental organizations, ASEAN human rights bodies, academics, and migrant workers themselves. Featured as speakers were Yoga Prasetyo, Daniel Awigra, Rafendi Djamin (all three came from Human Rights Working Group), Andy Hall (International Lawyer), U Hein Latt (Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar), U Sein Htay (Migrant Workers Rights Network), Jackie Pollock (International Labour Organization), Preeda Thongcumnum (Migrant Working Group), Kanjana Arkarrachat (Human Rights and Development Foundation), Daw Phyo Thu Nandar Aung (UN Women), and Daw Hnin Hnin Hmwe, Daw Mar Mar Oo, Daw Aye Aye San, U Thurain Aung, and U Kyaw Zin (all from PLAN).

The purpose of the ASEAN Consensus policy dialogue was to build a platform by which governments of ASEAN Member States, ASEAN Sectoral bodies, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders can discuss and share good practices and lessons learned for the purpose of implementing the ASEAN Consensus at the national level.

Mr. U Myo Aung (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of labor Immigration and Population) opened this forum with his speech, in which he acknowledged the contributions of migrant workers to Myanmar’s economy. He also identified several challenges that are cross-sectional and international in nature, and thus he placed a strong emphasis on the need for more collaborative,  multi-stakeholder approaches to the protection of Myanmarese migrant workers.

The first session was focused on identifying patterns of migrant worker issues at the regional level with special focus on Myanmar as a country of origin and Singapore and Thailand as two major countries of destination for Myanmarese workers. This session also discussed the Regional Plans of Action (2019-2025) on the implementation of ASEAN Consensus, AICHR Work Plan on Migration, as well as the challenges and opportunities for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers in ASEAN.

In the second session, the speakers deliberated over ethical recruitment, zero-cost recruitment and the current mechanisms for the protection of Myanmarese migrant workers. They also went on to reflect on the loopholes in the existing social protection schemes and the need to set up a comprehensive social protection system manifested in bilateral cooperation between Myanmar and countries of destination, in particular Thailand. 

In the third session, representatives from Thai civil society shared various cases, legal frameworks, challenges, and opportunities in protecting migrant workers’ access to justice with special focus on those working in the most vulnerable sectors including domestic workers and seafarers/seamen. The main takeaway from this session is that there are actually various channels to claim insurance for victims of trafficking in person. 

Discussions on the last session revolved around political rights, in particular, the right to cast votes during  general elections. To date, Myanmarese workers abroad have not been able to vote for leaders in their home country, and the government itself has not been aware of the obligation to fulfill this political right. This meeting made the government realize that efforts must be made to ensure the right to vote.