Epi.1: Paing Hein Htet (Pai) with Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

Saphan Siang…HRDF…and my first experiences!


I still clearly remember the first time that I started my placement at the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF). I came in with full expectation to help migrant workers and to promote positive images of migrant workers, while fully involved in communicating with them. Up to this point, my expectation has been fulfilled and I am sure that by the end of the placement, I would be able to contribute something meaningful to migrant workers in need.


On the first day at the HRDF, thanks to the instructions and location of the office provided by Khun Nattarat, it was easy to locate the office. The location of the office is interesting for the soi is occupied by Civil Society Organizations, fighting for Human Rights and is named Soi Sittichon – literally translated as ‘Road for Actions on Human Rights’ (thanks to Duangtha for the translation!). Along with Duangtha, we were given a short tour of the office and were warmly welcomed by friendly colleagues. On the first sight, I knew that the experience at this place will be special. The warmth and welcoming stance of the organization can be felt as soon as I stepped into the office. The office is based in a townhouse which reminds me of the simple offices back in Myanmar where offices are based in residences rather than skyscrapers. Luckily, my workspace is allocated along with Khun Preeda who would later become my close mentor and assigns works for me.

I’m quite happy to be placed at the Bangkok office of HRDF as it is involved in a wide range of activities, such as Migrant Justice Program (MJP) and Anti-Labor Trafficking Project (ALTP) —both of which I am currently involved in day-to-day assistance and provision of reports and translations when needed. Moreover, HRDF is linked with many other organizations. This makes me realize that the issues of migrant workers are multi-faceted and needs different specializations!


My first task kicked off with reading various kinds of cases, familiarizing with the laws and codes of the issues…

These are of great importance as my background is Economics and being familiar with the laws is necessary. To be honest, it was difficult to read the laws and cases at the start. However, overtime, I start to get familiar, and everyone at the office explained to me whenever I have questions. This was my first steps towards understanding the migrant worker issues appropriately.

My first assignment was the Assessment of the Royal Thai Government’s implementations on the recommendations suggested at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), twelfth session. UPR is a mechanism by the United Nations that examines the human rights performances of the nation. I was shocked being assigned this task as my work will be submitted to the UPR bodies directly. I remembered saying to myself that I cannot make mistakes. It turned out to be quite a rewarding experience as I was able to look at the Royal Thai Government’s responses on the migrant issues. My colleagues were really supportive and were willing to support any available information. The work was edited for more than five times and it came out perfect. From then on, I was more involved in looking at the issues from macro perspectives. While Duangtha was out on the field, I would be more involved in helping to produce documents and analyzing the issues one at a time. I believe this is a good combination as we could specialize, and it was always fun catching up, talking about our experiences.


Moreover, I was allowed to attend conferences and short visits to other organizations whenever possible, including short visits. One of the highlights was attending the 6th Post Asean Forum on Migrant Labours (AFML). This conference revolved around improving the complaint mechanisms and upcoming activities for the AFML. The AFML focuses on the co-operation between the tripartite parties, namely Civil Society Organizations, the Government and the migrant workers. However, since this is a post activity, it was focusing on the CSOs. I was fortunate enough to be there as I was able to witness how the Civil Society Organizations in ASEAN are working hard for migrant workers’ issues even though they are facing numerous constraints. Again, I am really thankful for allowing me to participate in this conference.

My first contact with an unfortunate migrant worker who was subsequently trafficked within Thailand was in May. Thanks to Khun Nattarat, Khun Patthranit and Khun Papop, Duangtha and I were able to get involved in monitoring this case, through means of being translators and having contact with the person. Mr. N (alias) left Myanmar and came to Thailand through his brothers and cousins’ help, in the hope that he would be able to find a rewarding job, earn money and go back to Myanmar to expand his family business…

However, things did not turn out as he expected!

Mr. N was forced into working on the fishing boat without any salary after being cheated by Burmese brokers. When his brother who is also in Thailand heard the news, he immediately came to HRDF and asked to rescue his brother. One thing to be noted is that, the presence and accessibility of the CSOs are important. Had his brother not known about HRDF, we would never have been able to hear this saddening story. Mr. N was then rescued and was sent to the shelters for the trafficked people. His other brother was also on the ship. Subsequently, he was rescued and now both are in the shelter. The case is still on-going and hopefully, justice will be done. This case had struck me, it made me realize that a person’s life can be destroyed within seconds and is even more vulnerable than we might have thought. Therefore, it is our responsibility not to turn our blind side on them and be ready to help those whoever is in need of help.


The placement at HRDF has been a rewarding experience for me. I am really thankful for the colleagues and the Saphan Siang coordinators for giving me this opportunity. I am able to gain a deeper understanding at a macro level. At the same time, I am more able to engage at the individual levels and give advice with the knowledge that I gained. The experiences at these institutions made me more vocal for the migrant workers. Whenever I have the chance, I do not think twice to recount and expound the hardships faced by the migrant workers to my families and friends.

Working at HRDF have been intellectually stimulating and challenging enough that every I go to work, I am fully prepared and say to myself that I am ready for the day. Even though there are challenges sometimes, I was able to go through those with the support from the colleagues. Again, I am really grateful that I have been assigned with important tasks and equally treated as a full-time employee. Many memorable first experiences have been formed, and I am expecting more of these, and at the same time, running campaigns with the support of Saphan Siang.


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