Posts tagged under Thailand
The flooding of Bangkok and the resulting stream of Thais seeking refuge out of town has dominated almost all international news coverage of the evolving disaster… however one problem almost overlooked by the media is the situation of Thailand’s migrant population, in particular low-skilled migrant workers, both legally registered and unregistered. An article from the IRIN News portal highlighted the issue of undocumented workers being exploited post-floods.
Thousands of Burmese migrants have been fleeing from flood-affected provinces such as Ayutthaya, Nakhon, Sawan, Nakhon Pathom and Pathum Thani, after their factories were submerged by water, often without getting paid their outstanding wages.
“More than 50% of our patients are from inside Burma – even the central provinces” explains Dr Cynthia Muang of the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC). These internally displaced persons (IDPs) often lack access to health services in Burma, with some travelling through dense jungle for up to seven days to receive treatment at the MTC.
Most Burmese migrants in Thailand come to escape the fighting between the Burmese government and minority groups, especially the Karen people, whilst others come to Thailand for greater employment opportunities in factories. The MTC estimates that there are over 550,000 IDPs within Burma, with the largest concentration along the Thailand-Burma border, in addition to over two million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand (most of them illegal). MTC treats most patients for free at the clinic as many cannot afford to pay for services, “they need at least 200 – 300 baht to come to the clinic” a great sum for IDPs. Knowing the challenges faced by migrants to reach the clinic, the MTC works with other NGOs like the Backpack Health Worker Team (BHWT) training Burmese mobile medics to provide preventive and maternal and child health services in the Karen villages bordering Thailand, often dangerous work in the presence of landmines and daily fighting between the Karen fighters and the army.
20 years ago, Madame Khin* decided to run away from her home in Burma after she was randomly arrested and harassed by a Burmese police officer. She belongs to the Muslim ethnic minority of the Rohingya people settled in western Burma. She wanted to escape the forlorn life of poverty and made her way over the Thailand-Burma border to Mae Sot.
Madame Khin is the head of a household of 11 members, all living in a former warehouse. The household is comprised of three small children, two teenagers, two working men, two women and two older women. However, only the children have Thai citizenship and are thus on secure legal ground. Madame Khin herself would be a considered an illegal immigrant under the law, but by staying out of trouble she has avoided the authorities for more than two decades. She is now taking care of her two grandchildren after her daughter and son-in-law passed away following an HIV infection.
(Coming soon: Bulletin 14 on Borders and Migration – stay tuned for more updates)
During our field trip to Thailand, the Asian Trends Monitoring Team, travelled from Bangkok, to Phichit, to Chiang Mai, to Mae Sot and back to the capital. It was in Mae Sot that we met Mae-Noi and Lalana, mother and daughter, who jointly run mobile hawker business. At the time of the visit (May 2011), they had been in Mae Sot for only two months.
Originally, they were farmers in Kamphaeng Phet province, but decided to start a new life in Bangkok. The hard life as a farmer and the low economic returns were not what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. They tried to make a living with a food stall in the streets of the Thai capital. But living costs in the city are much higher than in the countryside and the sheer amount of small food businesses was tough competition. “We had to sell our food at low prices which left only very small profits for ourselves. Life in Bangkok is also very expensive” says Mae-Noi.
“Rice is life” in Asia and particularly Southeast Asia, where it has long been a staple crop that countries have relied on to feed booming populations. The region is a key rice producer, with 169 million tons ,which is about 26% of global rice production, being produced in 2008. Rice constitutes around 60% of daily calorie intake in Asia and millions of small-holder farmers and their families depend on rice for both income and food security. Small-holder farmers are the most at risk if any harvest fails, due to drought, flooding or market-induced shocks.
In this issue, we focus the spotlight on small-holder farmers living in poverty and innovative interventions at the grassroots level that improve their livelihoods. This issue of the Asian Trends Monitoring (ATM) Bulletin is based on primary interview material gathered during a fieldwork visit to Thailand in April 2011.
As Singapore mulls over whether it should go down the route of nuclear energy, Asian countries are leading the field in what some insiders have called a nuclear renaissance.
The process of restructuring the Philippine power sector had been on a stop-and-go mode in the earlier part of the decade – until breakthroughs in privatization were attained in the past two years.
The government has remained non-committal on whether to push through with the privatization of Mindanao’s major hydropower complexes as provided for in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (Republic Act 9136), Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) Chair Luwalhati Antonino said.
The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is now set to start investing in generation facilities that will deliver at least 1,500 megawatts (MW) of power over the next five to six years, following the approval of its projects by the company’s board.
Filipino sugarcane farmers are opting to send harvests to sugar production where they’ll fetch more income than if the cane was converted to ethanol. Farmers and their politicians have been demanding the passage of a 20% ethanol tariff, previously set at 1%, which would stabilize the investment environment. Yet another example of consumers versus producers in the quest for grabbing social welfare.
Vietnam’s first foray into the wind turbine business took off last Friday with the inauguration of a $61 million factory that received support from General Electric. The plant will primarily produce 1.5MW turbines and various components.
Malaysia’s elusive feed-in tariff should be tabled “for first reading between the October and December session” of Parliament. If all fares well, it and the Renewable Energy Act as a whole would enter force before next June.
Would the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) say anything less? As the major power purchaser for Nam Theun 2, a 1075-MW hydropower plant in central Laos, any grievances associated with community relocation should be papered over. Laos will be hosting an inauguration in December, even though commercial electricity sales began in March.
Some of the top stories in energy security news across Southeast Asia:
- Malaysia’s PwC Taxation Services Senior Executive Director weighs in on the inadequacy of the country’s current green tax incentives to spur energy efficiency and renewable energy usage in the private sector
- As Filipinos debate how best to satisfy the country’s persistent energy supply problems, Senate President pushes for greater use of local lignite and coal deposits
- Draft fiscal measures pass the Thai cabinet that would support environmental conservation by taxing air, water pollution
- French EDF Trading considering up to six more clean development mechanism (CDM) projects in Thailand, would benefit from carbon credit tax revenue incentive
- Will the rhetoric of a Philippines smart grid move forward? Some very real reasons why that may not be the case, despite the anticipated benefits
- Minister of Trade and Industry in Singapore weighs in on the country’s energy ‘trilemma’ of striving for cost-competitiveness, energy security, and sustainability
Senior Executive VP for Thailand’s state-owned energy giant, PTT Plc., announced over the weekend that the company is planning about US$9.3 million of investments in biogas development. Based out of Chiang Mai, a pilot project will begin using waste from a local pig farm while another project in Ubon Ratchathani will convert cassava starch waste into usable methane, both expected to begin operating before the close of 2011.
Good news for natural gas vehicle (NGV) and bi-fuel vehicle manufacturers whose reach would further extend beyond Bangkok, where most of the country’s NGVs are based, though the construction of NGV refilling stations is not in the works. Just a couple days later, EGAT inked a partnership with two private companies to construct a 4.4-MW gasification project in northern Mae Hong Son, though the plant’s feedstock wasn’t identified.
The expansion of such projects, as envisioned in the country’s Power Development Plan (PDP) will provide material benefits, both in environmental and social terms. Agricultural wastes are carbon neutral (when a byproduct and not the primary good) and converting them into biogas can actually avoid the methane emissions generated from landfill biodegradation. The incorporation of small-scale farmers into the energy sector should create jobs and boost livelihoods, especially needed now when the country’s divide between rural and urban populations has been most transparent (see here, here, and here).