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[Ep. 2] Paing Hein Htet @Human Rights and Development Foundation

His eyes drifted away when asked about his family…

A short and firm word that I caught was “divorced”. Then, he went on to talk about the abuses that he faced on fishing boats. The recount was as vivid as it could be, describing the shocking 3 years and 7 months that were spent on the fishing boats without receiving any remunerations. Thousands of questions and multitudes of emotion crossed my mind while I was listening to his experience; a dreadful one, indeed.

This is the life of one migrant worker who came to Thailand for economic reasons and faced one of the worst crimes that could be done to a fellow human being: human-trafficking. In our daily lives, we have heard and read news or stories which depicts human trafficking and harsh conditions of the migrant workers. We might feel pity for a short span of time. However, sooner or later, these sympathetic feelings will be overridden by our tasks in life. This effect can be mounting when interacting directly with victims, and I have experienced this myself. Now, I find myself to be more attentive to these issue, and I feel more willing to promote the awareness whenever possible.

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It is incredible to realize that it has been almost four months that I have started my placement at the HRDF. There goes the saying that time flies really fast when you enjoy doing something. Same goes for the placement at the HRDF. The more I stay there, the more I am involved in the tasks and the more I enjoy volunteering. Following on from the last blog, there are more additional exciting involvements that I would like to share.

Following the coup staged by the NCPO, it has been a busy time for us. The sudden shift of the government might lead to changes in policies and it is important for us to continuously monitor the situation. The NCPO has made numerous announcements relating to the migrant workers. The data has to be collected, and, when needed, press statements had to be made. I am involved in drafting those statements and data collection. In some cases, the reports have to be adjusted to reflect the ongoing situation and changes in the situations.

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One major event that I was involved and probably one of the highlights during the placement at HRDF was that I was assigned as Assistant Coordinator and Documenter for the workshop that was held in Yangon, Myanmar on 12th and 13. The workshop aimed to promote understanding and cooperation between the Thai and Burmese lawyers concerning with push and pull factors of the migrant workers and human trafficking cases.

One major achievement for the HRDF that I would like to share even though I was not directly involved was the N’Air’s case.

N’Air was abducted, forced into labour and inhumanely abused by a married couple. HRDF, along with a dedicated lawyer, fought for justice and the court ruled in favour of N’Air, awarding over 4 million baht to N’Air and the parents for compensations (Details of the case can be found on HRDF website). I was fortunate enough to hear the court decision in person. We were overjoyed as this decision is unprecedented. As soon as we exited the court, we rush to find  Internet access; Khun Preeda drafted the press release of the court decision, and shortly after, we shared the story onto the Internet, through social network channels. On the following days, our office was bombarded with numerous phone calls from news agencies, requesting interviews and clarifications. Social networks can be useful, indeed!

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When I’m not in the office, I would be out on the field. I would assume roles such as an interpreter a guide for the journalists or the visitors who are interested in the issues of the migrant workers and/or are working for it. One memorable trip was to Mahachai, where I was with Ms. Jeanne Marie Hallacy, a well-known documentary filmmaker in the region. I was helping to coordinate a one day trip for her to take photos and write stories of the migrant workers. And also, on that day, I was her personal interpreter. It was fun and exciting, as we had to go really deep into the migrant communities and talk with the migrants in order to get best stories possible. Ranging from schools to workplaces, we interviewed quite a lot of people with really sad, yet inspiring stories. At the end of the day, the fatigue caught  me up so bad that I could even barely walk but it was a fun day!

 Apart from the daily activities at the office, I have been looking into the needs of migrant workers. It has come to my realization that technology, especially the Internet and mobile application, has not been utilized to its full capacity when it comes to empowering migrant workers. Therefore, along with the support from the Saphan Siang Campaign coordinators, Duangtha and I have been planning to reach migrant workers through the technology. I will come back in my next blog with more update on this exciting plan! Please stay tuned. 

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