News / Asia

Thai Schools for Migrants Aim to Prevent Child Labor

Thai Schools for Migrants Aim to Prevent Child Labori
|| 0:00:00
X
Daniel Schearf
December 21, 2012 9:48 PM
Thailand's seafood industry is expressing concern about child labor practices that, if not improved, could see exports to the United States restricted. The Thai government established schools for children of migrant laborers, most from Burma, to provide an alternative to child labor. But, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Samutsakhon province, too many children are still working.

Thai Schools for Migrants Aim to Prevent Child Labor

Daniel Schearf
— Thailand's seafood industry is expressing concern about child labor practices that, if not improved, could see exports to the United States restricted.  The Thai government established schools for children of migrant laborers, most from Burma, to provide an alternative to child labor.  But too many children are still working.

9-year-old Nu Nu Wai would like to go to school full time and become a painter. 

But, as a child of migrant workers from Burma her parents cannot make enough money so she only attends 10 days a month. 

  • Thai and migrant workers' children leave school in trucks in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Burmese teacher Than Than Win with children of migrant workers at a school in Samutsakhon Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Principal Pisarn Nuntasae with migrant workers' children at Wat Sri Suttharam School in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Children of migrant workers study in class in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Children of migrant workers line up to leave school in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Migrant factory workers in class in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Burmese migrant workers sort and clean squid in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • Squid for cleaning and sorting in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)
  • A Burmese woman sorts and cleans squid at Talay Thai in Samutsakhon, Thailand, December 20, 2012. (VOA/D. Schearf)

She spends the rest of her time peeling shrimp in a factory that employs five other children.

Her teacher, Than Than Win says she works there with her parents up to 13 hours per day.

"Parents who have financial problems cannot send their children to school regularly.  Sometimes, they ask their children to work and help in their work," she said.

Billions in exports

Samutsakhon is Thailand's seafood processing heartland and about a third of exports, worth over a billion dollars per year, go to the United States.

But a review next year of its record on trafficking in persons, including forced and child labor, could result in restrictions.

Suwatanachai Visetcharoen is manager of Talay Thai, Thailand's largest seafood wholesaler. 

He says U.S. limits on Thai imports would have a huge impact because it is their largest single export market.

"It would impact the seller and then the entire country's economy.  Some factories may have to close.  It would have a great impact," he said.

Unfair advantage

Activists say government efforts have stamped out blatant labor abuses at many large factories, but smaller ones still use undocumented children because they are cheap and not likely to go to authorities.

The Labor Rights Promotion Network says less than a third of Samutsakhon's 8,000 children of migrants go to school.

Director Sompong Srakaew says without government sponsored schools like this the problem would be worse.

"[Migrant] children who accompany their parents, if they are not supported to be able to go to school, they cannot develop themselves.  They will have no life skills and may cause social problems in the future.  Thailand is also now under close watch about child labor."

Vulnerable children, migrants

Head of Wat Sri Suttharam School Pisarn Nuntasae says about a quarter of the school's 300 migrant students are illegal and most who enroll end up dropping out to go to work.

He says about 20 percent end up returning to their home countries to try to become documented through a nationality verification process, but most do not return.

"Teachers followed up but were informed that they went back to their home [country] or other provinces.  The students did not come back into the school system again.  Only 5 perecent came back after nationality verification," he said.

Activists say the nationality verification program, while well intentioned, is cumbersome, too expensive, and opens migrants and their children to abuse.

Principal Pisarn says if the children were simply made legal they would not have to leave, could attend class more, and better avoid exploitation.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: anna from: south korea
December 21, 2012 10:06 PM
Children should go back to school not to the factories
what a sad story

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid