Being part of the Saphan Siang Youth Ambassador programme is a valuable opportunity as it enables me to be involved in the migrant worker issues in Thailand.
As a person born in a capital city such as Bangkok, I was never concerned or aware of migrant worker issues in the country. Migrant workers seemed totally out-of-the-way. However, since my first year at the university, the study of migration started to become one of the country’s prominent areas; it attracted me and led me to explore the field further.
The Saphan Siang Youth Ambassadors Programme has allowed me to exercise my academic skill and knowledge in the practical manner. I have known the programme since 2014 when it was initially launched. The poster attached to the information board at the university’s canteen had challenged me to apply. Unfortunately, I eventually could not make it that year which later I decided to apply again for the 2015 programme when I happen to be the only one postgraduate student.
The first day of an orientation was the day I had been waiting for, because it would be meeting with other Youth Ambassadors from different parts of the country – from north to south – as well as those friendly programme coordinators, Aanas Ali and Eliza Marks. The orientation started with the self-introduction and the icebreaker game. Later, it was followed by the background of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) TRIANGLE Project initiated by the International Labour Organizaton (ILO), one of the United Nations’ specialised agency. The GMS TRIANGLE aims to protect the rights or migrant workers and prevent the abuses of their rights. ‘TRIANGLE’ in this sense is referred to three significant actors – Government, Labour Union, and Employers. The role of the GMS TRIANGLE is to strengthen better cooperation and coordination among them with partner organizations including the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in order to function effectively and efficiently as a network of governance.
I began to realize that a number of migrant workers in Thailand are not stable because of the insufficient data. However, it is estimated that there are around 3.5 million both registered and nonregistered migrant workers, while Thailand has signed the MOUs with 3 countries – Burma/Myanmar, Lao PDR and Cambodia. Later on, I listened to another speaker who provided the rich information on the types of migrant workers whose rights are abused and violated such as the child labour, forced labour, exploitation, and so on. These types are related, and overlapped in some cases. Moreover, we discussed about the issue of human trafficking which is increasingly and widely spoken by those CSOs and the Intergovernmental Organizations as well as the media.
Next, we listened to Joe (Wanchana Waree), one of the Saphan Siang Youth Ambassadors in the first batch. He was and has been working with the Raks Thai Foundation in Pattani province in the deep south of Thailand. I could feel his passion and volunteer spirit he had got for the migrant workers while he is currently a junior student in the International Relations major, Prince of Songkla University.
On the second day, another ‘Do not miss’ lecture is on the gender sensitivity and migrant workers that should not be overlooked. It is because the social construction of myth and discourse have been playing and influencing over the Thai society for a long time. Thus, the Youth Ambassadors as a ‘Bridge of Voices’ are expected to actively change this perception. I also learned about gender inequality from the household to international level. This issue seems to lack social interest although its impacts are rift – whether it be abuses and exploitation. Last but not least, the use of social media was also introduced to all of the Youth Ambassadors as the most social impact tool in influencing and pressuring the society. We leant the way to make our voices viral over the night with our fingertips. Also, content, strategy and passion are required to drive an effective social media, in an effort to help raise the voice of migrant workers and the awareness around migrant worker issues. At the end, the closing remarks was conducted by Mr. Max Tunon, the ILO GMS TRIANGLE project Senior Programme Officer/Project Coordinator. He encouraged our commitment and contribution to the programme as the Youth Ambassadors.