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Corralling young Phuket minds for a collective economic community

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: After years of apparent neglect, it is good to see the Embassy of Myanmar’s Labour Attache taking steps to ensure that at least some of the untold thousands of Myanmar workers on the island are being treated fairly by their Thai employers (story here).

The history of Myanmar workers in Phuket is a tale of sadness and suffering that stands in sharp contrast to all of the pro-AEC (Asean Economic Community) rhetoric that Thai children are currently being exposed to in government schools.

It makes for an interesting thought experiment to consider just what Phuket children are expected to think these days about Myanmar nationals, who make up a considerable slice of the local population and have done much of the hard labor to make the island what it is today.

Thanks to the interminable political saga, Thai society is successfully cementing a reputation abroad for, shall we say, “cognitive flexibility”, in its collective struggle to grasp the true concept of the word “democracy”.

If this rather unique ability to simultaneously hold mutually exclusive views needs to be developed from a young age, how Thai children are taught to feel about their neighbors should serve as a shining example of how to get the job done.

On the one hand, students are taught to accept their regional neighbors as brothers and sisters in a new collective economic community. On the other hand, they are exposed day in and day out to how little Thai officials recognize migrant laborers from neighboring countries as people worthy of basic human rights.

The recent introduction of a curfew on all Myanmar laborers in Patong highlights this. The curfew harks back to only a handful of years ago when Myanmar nationals were not allowed to carry a mobile phone or own a motorbike, and were even barred from entering a major shopping mall on the island.

It takes horrific incidents such as the 2008 death by suffocation of 154 Myanmar nationals at the hands of human traffickers for any formal action to deliver a modicum of justice.

That said, years of international news reports exposing the extent of slavery on Thai fishing boats has yielded no corrective action from local authorities at all.

The ordeals the migrants endure to get here, their conditions of work and quality of pay, as well as their health and safety, are in reality all overlooked, and, by practice, deemed acceptable for an exploited labor force.

Make no mistake, children learn by absorbing what they see around them. If Thailand is serious about joining the AEC, the current attitude towards migrant workers needs to change in a big way.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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