On 21 October 2016 the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) opened a photo exhibition and launched a multimedia documentary. On this occasion, MMN also launched the advocacy paper “Permanently Temporary: Examining the Impact of Social Exclusion on Mekong Migrants,” at Meta House in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The opening event was attended by the public, representatives of the Cambodian government, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and International NGOs.
Mr Sokchar Mom of Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) welcomed the audience and gave an overview of the photo exhibition and documentary which are part of an ongoing project “Beyond ‘Tolerance’: Working hand in hand to promote social inclusion of migrants and their families”, supported by the Toyota Foundation.
The introduction of the project was followed by screening the Khmer version of MMN’s multimedia documentary to promote social inclusion entitled “Beyond ‘Tolerance’: Living Together with Migrants”. To view the documentary, please visit: https://mekongmigration.org/?p=5190
Mr. Choup Narath, Deputy General, Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MOLVT), began the public discussion. Mr Narath highlighted that there was limited social protection for migrant workers, and that migrant workers face a double disadvantage. He pointed out that unequal treatment on social protection remain, and migrants face discrimination and exclusion due to their status and nature of employment. He mentioned that social protection of migrant workers was among the government’s concerns, and that they had given recommendations at the preparation meeting of the ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML) and will further discuss the issue at AFML on 9-10 November 2016 in Vientiane, Lao PDR, where the theme will be better quality of life for migrant workers in the region.
Mr. Sokchar Mom presented migration trends from Cambodia. Thailand remains the main destination country, but the number of Cambodian migrants in Japan is increasing. He highlighted that Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand face short-term migration policies, lack support to mobilise and organize, and find their mobility is restricted, resulting in social exclusion. He then urged the Cambodia government to improve Embassy assistance, especially related to unionising and collective bargaining. The Thai and Cambodian governments should collaborate in sharing information and promoting cultural exchange, so that multiculturalism will be not only encouraged by law but will reach migrants’ daily lives.
Key findings of MMN’s advocacy paper “Permanently Temporary: The Impact of Social Exclusion on Mekong Migrants” were presented by Ms. Omsin Boonlert from MMN. She highlighted that the short–term migration management policies in destination countries such as Thailand result in migrant workers’ marginalization and exclusion from local communities, as well as increased risk of exploitation. However, there are efforts from civil society organisations to encourage social inclusion in destination countries through language classes, health care services, and the formation of migrant groups. Yet, in origin countries like Cambodia, social inclusion of migrant returnees remain a challenge, and returnees frequently lack access to education and health care services.
Ms. Boonlert presented recommendations to the Cambodian government concerning: amendment of regulation to allow migrant workers to be able to vote abroad; ensuring returnees have access to health care services; and facilitation of migrants’ children in accessing free public education.