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Economic crisis causes thousands of Burmese migrants to lose jobs

Mar 11, 2009 (DVB), The number of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand and Malaysia that are losing their jobs as a result of the global economic crisis is soaring, according to a Bangkok-based migrant workers group.

Thousands of migrant workers have lost their jobs in the last year and some factories have had to be closed down, said Kyaw Thaung of Burmese Association in Thailand.

"Within two months, the number became thousands," he said.

"A garment factory that makes clothes for foreign countries has to fire 15 workers every week, and last week a factory that makes sports garments fired 60 workers on the pretext of finding tuberculosis on them."

A worker at a factory in Bangkok said that 25 workers were made jobless last week.

"Given that there is no proper reason, employers are firing them by means of finding faults with them such as having diseases," said Than Zaw Oo.

About 60 Burmese workers were fired from a knitting factory on the pretext of lacking in skills.

Many of these workers are not going back to Burma, hoping that they will get a new job where they are, Thant Zaw Oo said.

Malaysia has also seen cuts in employee numbers, and the Malaysian government is allowing some migrant workers to return to their countries without being prosecuted for not having legal status.

But many workers say that they will not return to Burma and will stay on by any means possible, an official in charge of workers from National League for Democracy – Liberated Areas (Malaysia branch) said.

"Many factories have closed: it might be about 40 per cent, maybe more," he said.

"Burmese workers in their tens of thousands may have lost their jobs."

Burmese PM General Thein Sein said that there are jobs at the ready for workers returning to Burma.

Maung Maung, who is going back to Burma in the coming week, doubts however that there will be a job for him in Burma.

"I will have to hold discussion with my family and do my best," he said.

"No one wants to go abroad and leave their families. We went abroad because we faced difficulties and hoped that we would get a job."

"We have the desire to make our country develop," he added.

"The people who are ruling the country will understand if possible and, if they can do their best, we will not face difficulties like this."

Reporting by Naw Noreen