Working with migrant workers in Thailand: an unsung heroine

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Khun Patima (right) works with migrant workers in Thailand.


On 11/11/11, in the midst of the Thailand flood crisis, the Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN), one of the organizations who received World Bank support through the Civil Society and Small Grants Program, provided relief. Not just for Thais affected by the deluge but also for migrant workers who had little access to help. Through Project Manager Patima Tangprachayakul, I learned that LPN was busy with much more than just the flood relief effort. In an assignment for One Day on Earth: Women at Work, a campaign aimed at increasing awareness for the important contributions of women in the workplace, I got the chance to join Khun Patima on a visit to a flood evacuation center set up for migrants. She told me about her work on human rights, how her work has added value to her life, and how one woman could give her energy for a better world.

LPN is based in Samut Sakhon, one of the urban industrial provinces on the outskirts of Bangkok. An estimated 400,000 migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia live there, about half of them illegal migrants. And most of them don’t know their rights. The LPN’s project aims to provide migrant workers with a basic knowledge of their rights such as access to healthcare (like how to seek help in hospitals) and how to talk to their bosses. Khun Patima emphasizes that migrant workers have the same rights as anybody else and are protected equally by universal human rights.

When Khun Patima started her career, people asked her why she chose to be a social worker and why she chose to focus on foreign laborers. It was hard to explain at first but through her work, she has gained a good network of people supportive of her decision and choice of career. Working makes Khun Patima happy and most of all, helping others has helped her find a purpose in life, she says: “When I look in the mirror, I am proud”.

With human rights and improving conditions for migrant workers as entry points, the work of LPN spans many areas including providing legal and psychological assistance for rape victims. Khun Patima says being a woman helps when working with victims of rape: as a woman it is easier to gain the trust of the victims and help solve conflicts. Her face lights up when she speaks about her work and about the women her work has brought her in touch with. “Female energy and resilience,” she says, “make this world beautiful.”

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