Tourism News

Tourism News Phuketwan Tourism News
facebook recommendations


Sign up now for our News Alert emails and the latest breaking news plus new features.

Click to subscribe

Existing subscribers can unsubscribe here


Academic Bianca Gantner interviewed many Burmese in Patong

Burma's Secret Exodus: The Illegal Road to Patong

Monday, June 22, 2009
HUNDREDS of Burmese are crossing into Thailand in secret and heading south to Ranong, Phang Nga and Phuket to beat the July 1 deadline for a new ID card system aimed at clarifying the number of legal workers.

As longboats packed with scores of Burmese cross to Ranong each night in darkness, Immigrations officers, the Royal Navy, the Army and Marine Police are conducting a crackdown.

The mass exodus is driven by people desperate to start a new life in Thailand, where harsh conditions and less-than-fair wages seem a vast improvement on going hungry under Burma's junta generals.

The Chief Inspector of Ranong Immigration, Police Lieutenant Colonel Nattarit Pinpak, said today: ''We are out every night. (on the delta crossing between Victoria Point and Ranong.)

''Some nights, up to 100 longtail boatloads are coming across. There could be 10 or more people in each boatload.''

Further south, large numbers of Burmese workers provide the Phuket holiday resort town of Patong with much of its low-paid labor, a European researcher has found.

As part of a comprehensive study of the economics of the popular tourist centre, Bianca Gantner interviewed workers at 40 small shops.

''More than the half of the employees were from Burma,'' she told Phuketwan.

''They work in small shops and sell copy T-shirts, watches, DVDs. Burmese also work as beach chair vendors.

''I would say one third to one half of the beach chair vendors on Patong beach come from Burma.''

Ms Gantner was surprised to find that the people who rent the small Patong shops mostly do not work in them.

Phuketwan has established that the large numbers of lowly-paid Burmese enable the Thai renters to meet rapidly rising costs in the highly-competitive holiday town.

Ms Gantner, who is using the research for her PhD thesis in Vienna, Austria, said: ''Most of the Burmese are illegal, at least 80 percent.''

''If they get caught by the police (which is not very hard work for the police because the police know where they work and they don't look like Thais) they pay a fine which is about one-third of their monthly salary.''

Thousands of Burmese have made their homes illicitly along the Andaman coastline, with questions now being asked about what will happen to children born and raised on Phuket or in Ranong and Phang Nga.

One Phuketwan contact with years of experience dealing with Burmese migration estimates that the Burmese population of Ranong is already three times the official Thai population of 177,000.

At least 12 illegal schools for Burmese children flourish in the provincial capital. Burmese television is beaming in. And all the signage in the local supermarkets is in three languages: Thai, English and Burmese.

Phuket's illegal Burmese population underpins the local economy, especially in the construction business.

Burmese, often with better English and a greater desperation for income, are present on Phuket in increasing numbers.

One expat told Phuketwan: ''If I want to clear the weeds from the klong beside my house, a difficult job, Thais will change me 10,000 baht.

''But the local Burmese are happy to do it for 2000 baht.''

From July 1, illegal Burmese will be able to register so authorities have an accurate record of numbers in Thailand.

Unless it is quickly corrected, the economic downturn is expected to bring calls for more jobs, even those involving menial and underpaid labor, to be the preserve of Thais.

Ms Gantner said of the Burmese she encountered in large numbers in Patong: ''They just think from month to month. I think they are still hoping that more tourists will come next season.''

She hesitated to hazard a guess at the economic future of Patong and its Burmese workers because there so many unpredictable factors involved.

But she did say that she thought Patong was a good destination for tourists who want value for money, like crowded beaches (''there are people who like crowded beaches''), enjoy the nightlife and prefer to go to a destination directly from their country.

Phuketwan on Human Trafficking

MediaWATCH: Clinton Blasts 'Modern Slavery'
News Digest Hillary Clinton is coming to Phuket. The key issue: people trafficking; Rohingya arrested; stopping unwanted cellphone messages; world's worst airline food; H1N1 scan call.
MediaWATCH: Clinton Blasts 'Modern Slavery'

Phuket Still Linked to Slavery and Trafficking
Latest The release of a brochure on people trafficking highlights the part Phuket played in a notorious smuggling incident. Not a lot has changed since then.
Phuket Still Linked to Slavery and Trafficking

Immigration Nabs 'Phuket-Trail People Smuggler'
Photo Album Immigration officers say they have arrested a leading people trafficker as he prepared today to smuggle more than 30 Burmese laborers to Phuket.
Immigration Nabs 'Phuket-Trail People Smuggler'

Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths
Photo Album No more pushing back the boats: that is the guarantee extracted from Thailand by the UN as an international body looks at human trafficking and its tragic outcomes.
Thailand's UN Pledge: No More Boat People Deaths

Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?
LatestDesperation drives Rohingya, Burmese and others into the hands of human traffickers, putting their lives on the line. The Bali Process this week may provide answers that Thailand needs.
Human Trafficking: Suffocation, or Solution?

Phuketwan Latest News

MediaWATCH: Phuket Eyes Nuclear Sea Drama
News Digest Phuket observers look on as North Korea and the US face off over Burma nuclear weapons; Thaksin bounce in byelection; Why Brits won't travel; swastika alert; pilots pay cut.
MediaWATCH: Phuket Eyes Nuclear Sea Drama

Phuket Property Market Remains All at Sea
Showhouse Selloffs Some Phuket developers have been forced to sell showhouses as a property industry leader warns there could be 12 months of pain ahead.
Phuket Property Market Remains All at Sea

Patong Love Story: Romance and Rama, a Soi Dog
One Memorable Dog Ten years ago a remarkable relationship began between an English couple and a street dog that befriended them on the streets of Patong. Here's their story.
Patong Love Story: Romance and Rama, a Soi Dog

Phuket 'Ground Zero' for Nuclear Truce Talks
Disarming Discussions Phuket is being proposed as an ideal site in July for the US, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea to meet over nuclear rogue state North Korea.
Phuket 'Ground Zero' for Nuclear Truce Talks

Phuket a Haven for Lone-Hand 'Pirate' Sailor
Tour the Boat Pirates? No pirates, says a truly lone handed sailor, Akito Yonago, who is safe in Phuket after concerns he could have been taken by pirates. But he is taken by Phuket.
Phuket a Haven for Lone-Hand 'Pirate' Sailor


Comments have been disabled for this article.

Wednesday July 17, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


Facebook Twitter