Calling for a Humanitarian Response to Burmese people affected by Cyclone Nargis, Prachathai

Mekong migration Network
05 June 2008

According to the latest information, 78,000 people have died since Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in the morning of May 3rd 2008, over 55,000 people are still missing and 2.4 million people have lost their livelihoods.

Three weeks after the cyclone hit, less than half the people affected have received any assistance and those in the worst affected areas have received no assistance whatsoever.

The Burmese regime has politicized the cyclone by prioritizing the holding of a national referendum over the survival of its citizens. Only after the completion of the national referendum on May 24th were international aid agencies allowed access to the affected areas.

Without a fully comprehensive relief program, the situation can only spiral into ever more serious crises including possible epidemics of dysentery, cholera, dengue fever and malaria; malnutrition; further loss of life and violence if people are starving, unsheltered and know that the aid is not reaching them.

The Thai people have demonstrated great generosity, sympathy and deep concern towards their Burmese neighbors by speaking out on their behalf and donating aid directly to those affected by Cyclone Nargis.

Indeed, the economic development of Thailand over the past two decades has been in part due to the contribution of Burmese migrant workers. The Thai Government has acknowledged that there are not enough Thai workers to fill the demands of our export oriented industries (fruit, seafood, rice) or for the booming construction industry, (hotels, hospitals, prisons, housing estates) or to take care of our middle class and wealthy families.

In 2008, employers requested 1.2 million migrant workers. However currently there are only 529,447 registered migrants in Thailand, a figure which is likely to decrease in June when 394,443 of the workers are asked to re-register.

Just as Thailand’s economy depends on Burmese migrant workers, so too does the survival of many communities in Burma. The remittances of Burmese migrant workers support families and communities to survive through the difficult times imposed by a military regime.

Today is one of the most difficult times for our neighbors. Not only are over two million people directly, immediately affected, but the whole rice harvest is destroyed and the whole country will be affected.

We, the Action Network for Migrants (Thailand) and the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) recommend the following responses which would be in the interests of the economy of Thailand and the economy of the Burmese people and which would also contribute to the international humanitarian response to the effects of Cyclone Nargis. We call on the Royal Thai Government:

To stop all arrests and deportations of Burmese migrant workers for immigration irregularities for the next 12 months.
For the Ministry of the Interior to open a new temporary residence (Tor Ror 38/1) registration for all migrants followed by an emergency work permit registration.

To implement a temporary policy which will allow Burmese migrants to return home to visit their families affected by the Cyclone and return back to Thailand.

The people of Burma will only migrate to Thailand if there is no other means of survival in Burma. We therefore call on the Royal Thai Government, as the Chair of ASEAN,

To ensure that their member country, Burma, provides full immediate protection (temporary shelter, food, medical care,) followed by full reconstruction (permanent shelter, restoration of livelihoods, environmental rehabilitation) to all peoples and lands affected by the Cyclone.

In order to provide such protection, the people of Burma must be able to receive ASEAN and international assistance in the form of relief, experts and volunteers and we call on the Thai government to monitor the distribution.

Should the Burmese regime continue to refuse to provide proper protection to their people and continue to restrict access to aid and aid workers, it is likely that the people in the affected areas will have to migrate for safety. While past experience in Burma shows that the majority of people will migrate internally, some may cross the borders in desperation. In such an event, we call on the Royal Thai government

To provide shelter, essential services and livelihood to Cyclone Nargis refugees.


Laddawan Tamafu

On behalf of Mekong Migration Network and Action Network for Migrants (Thailand)

Cc letter to; Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand

Ministry of Interior

Ministry of Labour

Ministry of Social Development and Human Security

Administrative Office of Irregular Migration, December 19th 2007.

135,004 migrants registered in February 2008, a further 394,443 migrants are eligible to renew their work permits in June 2008