Advertisement

Brokered (Il)legality: Co-producing the Status of Migrants from Myanmar to Thailand

  • Indrė Balčaitė
Chapter

Abstract

In the heavy migration flow from Myanmar to Thailand, private migration infrastructure provides an alternative as well as an interface to the bureaucratic migration management by states. Immigration procedures in Thailand are restrictive and changeable. As a result, both documented and undocumented low-paid migration is heavily brokered, expensive and results in precarious legal statuses for migrants. Whereas the ‘legal’ route created by Thailand’s Memoranda of Understanding with Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar remains underused, human smuggling and other formal and informal brokerage industries are well-established. This chapter shows both should be considered as part of the same migration system and demonstrates the extent of brokerage and collusion with state authorities in the arrival, departure and status management of migrants.

Keywords

Brokerage (Il)legality Migrants Border Myanmar–Thailand 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank her gatekeepers, co-researchers, research participants and sponsors as well as the participants of the ‘The Migration Industry’ workshop at NUS in June 2017 where she presented a draft of the paper.

References

  1. Al Jazeera. (2010, July 17). Migrants caught in vicious cycle. http://www.aljazeera.com/video/asia-pacific/2010/07/201071723514942402.html?utm=from_old_mobile.
  2. Alpes, M. J. (2013). Law and the credibility of migration brokers: The case of emigration dynamics in Cameroon. International Migration Institute Working Papers Series 80. Oxford: University of Oxford. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Migration/StudyMigrants/CivilSociety/JillAlpesMigrationbrokers.pdf.
  3. Alpes, M. J. (2017). Brokering high-risk migration and illegality in West Africa: Abroad at any cost. Studies in Migration and Diaspora. Oxford and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Ananta, A., & Arifin, E. N. (2004). Should Southeast Asian borders be opened? In A. Ananta & E. N. Arifin (Eds.), International migration in Southeast Asia (pp. 1–27). Singapore: ISEAS Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  5. Andreas, P. (2001). The transformation of migrant smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican Border. In D. Kyle & R. Koslowski (Eds.), Global human smuggling: Comparative perspectives (pp. 107–125). Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Arnold, D. (2005). The situation of Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot, Thailand. In D. Chang & E. Shepherd (Eds.), Asian transnational corporation outlook 2004: Asian TNCs, workers, and the movement of capital, by Asia Monitor Resource Centre (pp. 287–329). Asian TNC Monitoring Network Book Series. Hong Kong: Asia Monitor Resource Centre. http://amrc.org.hk/text/system/files/ATNC-2004.pdf#page=300.
  7. Caouette, T. M., Artchavanitkul, K., & Pyne, H. H. (2000). Sexuality, reproductive health and violence: Experiences of migrants from Burma in Thailand. Nakhonprathom: Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University at Salaya.Google Scholar
  8. Caouette, T. M., & Pack, M. E. (2002). Pushing past the definitions: Migration from Burma to Thailand. Refugees International & Open Society Foundation. http://www.refworld.org/docid/47a6eb9d0.html.
  9. Castles, S. (2004). The myth of the controllability of difference: Labour migration, transnational communities and state strategies in the Asia-Pacific region. In B. S. A. Yeoh & K. Willis (Eds.), State/nation/transnation: Perspectives on transnationalism in the Asia-Pacific (pp. 16–36). Transnationalism 12. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Castles, S., de Haas, H., & Miller, M. J. (2014). The age of migration: International population movements in the modern world (5th ed.). New York and London: Guilford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cranston, S., Schapendonk, J., & Spaan, E. (2017). New directions in exploring the migration industries: Introduction to special issue. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 44(4), 1–15.Google Scholar
  12. Ditmore, M., & Wijers, M. (2003). The negotiations on the UN Protocol on trafficking in persons. Nemesis, 4, 79–88.Google Scholar
  13. Genova, D., & Nicholas, P. (2002). Migrant “illegality” and deportability in everyday life. Annual Review of Anthropology, 31, 419–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gruß, I. (2017). The emergence of the temporary migrant: Bureaucracies, legality and Myanmar migrants in Thailand. SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, 32(1), 1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hall, A. (2012). Experiences of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand with the MoU import process. Mahidol Migration Centre at Mahidol University Institute for Population and Social Research. http://oppenheimer.mcgill.ca/IMG/pdf/Experiences_of_Myanmar_Migrant_Workers_in_Thailand_with_the_MoU_Import_Process.pdf.
  16. Hernández-León, R. (2013). Conceptualizing the migration industry. In T. Gammeltoft-Hansen & N. N. Sørensen (Eds.), The migration industry and the commercialization of international migration. Global Institutions Series. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. HRW. (2010). From the tiger to the crocodile: Abuse of migrant workers in Thailand. Human Rights Watch. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/thailand0210webwcover_0.pdf.
  18. Huguet, J. W. (2014). Thailand migration profile. In J. W. Huguet (Ed.), Thailand migration report 2014 (pp. 1–11). Bangkok: United Nations Thematic Working Group on Migration in Thailand. http://th.iom.int/images/report/TMR_2014.pdf.
  19. International Labour Organization. (2015). Review of the effectiveness of the MOUs in managing labour migration between Thailand and neighbouring countries. Tripartite Action to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers within and from the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS TRIANGLE Project). Bangkok: ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/documents/publication/wcms_356542.pdf.
  20. IOM. (2014). Migrant information note. Migrant information note 25. Bangkok: International Organization for Migration, Thailand Office. http://thailand.iom.int/sites/default/files/document/publications/Migration%2BInformation%2B25%2BENG.pdf.
  21. Kern, A., & Müller-Böker, U. (2015, October). The middle space of migration: A case study on brokerage and recruitment agencies in Nepal. Geoforum, 65, 158–169.Google Scholar
  22. Khosravi, S. (2010). ‘Illegal’ traveller: An auto-ethnography of borders (1st ed.). Global Ethics Series. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  23. Koetsawang, P. (2001). In search of sunlight: Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. Bangkok, Thailand: Orchid Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kyle, D., & Siracusa, C. A. (2005). Seeing the state like an migrant: Why so many non-criminals break immigration laws. In W. van Schendel & I. Abraham (Eds.), Illicit flows and criminal things: States, borders, and the other side of globalization (pp. 153–176). Tracking Globalization Series. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Labour Rights Promotion Network, and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. (2011). Estimating labor trafficking: A study of Burmese migrant workers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand. Bangkok: United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking. http://www.no-trafficking.org/reports_docs/estimates/uniap_estimating_labor_trafficking_report.pdf.
  26. Lan, P. C. (2007). Legal servitude and free illegality: Migrant “guest” workers in Taiwan. In R. S. Parreñas & L. C. D. Siu (Eds.), Asian diasporas: New formations, new conceptions (pp. 253–277). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lin, W., Lindquist, J., Xiang, B., & Yeoh, Brenda S. A. (2017). Migration infrastructures and the production of migrant mobilities. Mobilities, 12(2), 167–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lindquist, J., Xiang, B., & Yeoh, Brenda S. A. (2012). Introduction: Opening the black box of migration—Brokers, the organization of transnational mobility and the changing political economy in Asia. Pacific Affairs, 85(1), 7–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ma, A. (2017, January 18). Labor migration from Myanmar: Remittances, reforms, and challenges. Migration Policy Institute. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/labor-migration-myanmar-remittances-reforms-and-challenges.
  30. McKeown, A. M. (2008). Melancholy order: Asian migration and the globalization of borders. Columbia Studies in International and Global History. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  31. McKeown, A. (2012). How the box became black: Brokers and the creation of the free migrant. Pacific Affairs, 85(1), 21–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Molland, S. (2012). Safe migration, dilettante brokers and the appropriation of legality: Lao-Thai “trafficking” in the context of regulating labour migration. Pacific Affairs, 85(1), 117–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Natali, C., McDougall, E., & Stubbington, S. (2014). ‘International migration policy in Thailand’. In J. W. Huguet (Ed.), Thailand migration report 2014 (pp. 13–24). Bangkok: United Nations Thematic Working Group on Migration in Thailand. http://th.iom.int/images/report/TMR_2014.pdf.
  34. National News Bureau of Thailand. (2014, April 2). One-stop service centers reopen for migrant worker registration. Mekong Migration Network. http://www.mekongmigration.org/?p=4922.
  35. National Wages and Productivity Commission. (2019, April 30). Comparative wages in selected countries. Department of Labor and Employment National Wages and Productivity Commission. http://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/stats/comparative-wages-in-selected-countries/.
  36. Nyein, N. (2014, March 21). Myanmar begins passport scheme for migrant workers in Thailand. The Irrawaddy. http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/burma-begins-passport-scheme-migrant-workers-thailand.html.
  37. Paithoonpong, S., & Chalamwong, Y. (2012). Managing international labor migration in ASEAN: A case of Thailand. Bangkok: Thailand Development Research Institute.Google Scholar
  38. Pearson, R., & Kusakabe, K. (2012). Thailand’s hidden workforce: Burmese migrant women factory workers. Asian Arguments. London and New York: Zed Books, Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  39. Pratch Rujivanarom. (2017, May 1). New work permit rules make for an uncertain May Day for migrant workers. The Nation. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313852.
  40. Sakaew, S., & Tangpratchakoon, P. (2009). Brokers and labor migration from Myanmar: A case study from Samut Sakorn. Labour Rights Promotion Network, Social Research Institute and Asian Research Center for Migration. Chulalongkorn University. http://www.arcmthailand.com/documents/publications/lpn-en.pdf.
  41. Salt, J., & Stein, J. (1997). Migration as a business: The case of trafficking. International Migration, 35(4), 467–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Saltsman, A. (2012). Surviving or thriving on the Thai-Burma border: Vulnerability and resilience in Mae Sot Thailand. Bangkok: International Rescue Committee.Google Scholar
  43. Sciortino, R., & Punpuing, S. (2009a). International migration in Thailand 2009. Bangkok: International Organization for Migration, Thailand Office. http://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/international-migration-thailand-2009.
  44. Sciortino, R., & Punpuing, S. (2009b). International migration in Thailand 2009. Bangkok: International Organization for Migration. http://www.ipsr.mahidol.ac.th/ipsr/Contents/Articles/2009/264-Internation-Migration-Thailand.pdf.
  45. Soe Lin Aung. (2019). Notes on the Practice of Everyday Politics: Rereading the Labour of Self-Protection Among Migrant Communities on the Thai-Burma Border. Journal of Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, 24(1–2), 63–114. https://www.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/jss/article/view/178102/126693.
  46. Spaan, E., & Hillmann, F. (2013). Migration trajectories and the migration industry: Theoretical reflections and empirical examples from Asia. In T. Gammeltoft-Hansen & N. Nyberg Sørensen (Eds.), The migration industry and the commercialization of international migration (pp. 64–86). Global Institutions Series. London and New York: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/The-Migration-Industry-and-the-Commercialization-of-International-Migration/Gammeltoft-Hansen-Nyberg-Sorensen/p/book/9780415623797.
  47. State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation, Human Rights and Development Foundation, Thai Labour Solidarity Committee. (2010). Open letter requesting investigation of claims migrants deported from Thailand facing human rights abuses by DKBA. Human Rights Watch. http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/07/19/open-letter-requesting-investigation-claims-migrants-deported-thailand-facing-human.
  48. Surak, K. (2013). The migration industry and development states in East Asia. In T. Gammeltoft-Hansen & N. N. Sørensen (Eds.), The migration industry and the commercialization of international migration (pp. 87–107). Global Institutions Series. London and New York: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/The-Migration-Industry-and-the-Commercialization-of-International-Migration/Gammeltoft-Hansen-Nyberg-Sorensen/p/book/9780415623797.
  49. Surak, K. (2017, January). Migration industries and the state: Guestwork programs in East Asia. International Migration Review (Fall), 1–37.Google Scholar
  50. Trading Economics. (2018a). Myanma Kyat. https://tradingeconomics.com/myanmar/currency.
  51. Trading Economics. (2018b). Thai Baht. https://tradingeconomics.com/thailand/currency.
  52. United Nations. (2000). Protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, supplementing the United Nations convention against transnational organized crime. https://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNTOC/Publications/TOC%20Convention/TOCebook-e.pdf.
  53. van Schendel, W. (2005). The Bengal Borderland: Beyond state and nation in South Asia. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  54. van Schendel, W., & Abraham, I. (2005). Introduction: The making of illicitness. In W. van Schendel & I. Abraham (Eds.), Illicit flows and criminal things: States, borders, and the other side of globalization (pp. 1–37). Tracking Globalization Series. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Wee, V., & Sim, A. (2004). Transnational networks in female labour migration. In A. Ananta & E. N. Arifin (Eds.), International migration in Southeast Asia (pp. 166–198). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  56. Xiang, B. (2012). Predatory Princes and Princely Peddlers: The state and international labour migration intermediaries in China. Pacific Affairs, 85(1), 47–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Xiang, B., & Lindquist, J. (2014, September). Migration infrastructure. International Migration Review, 48, S122–S148.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Indrė Balčaitė
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

Personalised recommendations