Miss Mae So receives training from the JRS supported community based organization PKGWA on vocational sewing.

Mae Sot, 16 December 2016- Sharing a border with Myawaddy of Burma/Myanmar, the Mae Sot district of Tak province, a north-western province of Thailand, is notable as a trade hub as well as its substantial population of both Burmese migrants and refugees. Located 57 kilometres away (1-hour driving) from Mae La Temporary Shelter, the largest officially refugee camp in Thailand, that hosts approximately 39,000 refugees from Burma/Myanmar, the city has long been used as a site for community-based organizations (CBOs) and international aid agencies who provided support for both the migrants and refugees in the town and surrounding areas.

The general election in Myanmar held on 8 November 2015 was a historic political improvement, in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) received the landslide victory. As a result, the transfer of power is in process with the promise of the military government leader that the people's choice and decision would be respected and the process would be done peacefully.


JRS has supported many CBO’s (community based organization) over the years and now see that the needs of our original objectives of the project have been met. We will suspend this project for a period of 1 year. After the 1 year JRS has committed itself to doing a needs assessment based on the progress toward peace Myanmar has achieved and how that has affected the Mae Sot community.


As the original project comes to a close we share 3 voices from the communities that JRS has helped. This is the voice of an organization from the CBO community that JRS supports. This is the voice of an organization from the CBO community that JRS supports and the voice of an indirect JRS beneficiary Miss Mae So.


Pann Kant Gor Worker’s Association (PKGWA) - Member of CBO community that JRS supports


Pann Kant Gor Worker’s Association (PKGWA) was founded in 2009 with an aim to provide knowledge about human rights, responsibilities, and wage issues to migrant workers.


Later in 2010, PKGWA started to provide emergency support (i.e. shelter, food) and to liaise with the workers at Mae Tao Clinic. The organisation came to know JRS through the CBO network as JRS has been working many other Arakanese CBOs.


As the needs of emergency support and knowledge for migrant issues had greatly increased over the years, in 2012, the organisation requested support from JRS.


In 2013, JRS started to support PKGWA through IGA (Income Generating Activities) and other activities that included awareness raising session (trainings & the focus group discussions) and information material distribution (i.e. newsletters, T-shirts, bags).


The IGA support provided for three years[1] were as follows:


2013 - 30,000 THB for Sarong and traditional cloth selling

2014 - 20,000 THB for Sarong and traditional cloth selling

2015 - 10,000 THB for cooking items (i.e. rice, cooking oil, MSG) selling


The income gained from the IGAs is used for the organization’s administrative cost and proving emergency assistance to the new arrivals.


PKGWA and JRS also recognized the needs to build skills to the workers. Having expertise in sewing in the organization, PKGWA started to provide motor sewing trainings in 2014 while JRS provided equipment and materials needed for the trainings.


JRS has stopped its support in IGAs and vocational trainings since the end of 2015, however, PKGWA still continues both their businesses and conducting the sewing trainings on their own.


For awareness raising activities, such as trainings and focus group discussions on human rights, responsibilities (both employees and employers), labor rights, Thai related laws, and human trafficking, and information material distribution, JRS still continued support in 2016.


Like most CBOs, PKGWA could not register under Thai law and did not get recognition from local authorities. Working with JRS also helps PKGWA gain trust from the community and recognition from local authorities.


On the other hand, after gain trust from the community, more people in need approached PKGWA and they found it difficult to response the increasing needs. Support from JRS helped PKGWA to expand both the coverage and its number of services that allowed it to serve more people.


As mentioned earlier, JRS has already stopped supporting the IGAs and materials for sewing trainings. PKGWA still continues both activities and will continue the activities as long as they are still in Thailand. For awareness raising activities and information material distribution, PKGWA will also continue organizing them after JRS withdraw its support by the end of 2016.


PKGWA also hopes to expand its awareness raising activities to Myanmar sites to prepare people who want to travel to work in Thailand. Then, PKGWA might consider expansion of services to cover education and vocational trainings.


IGA support was the activity that helped PKGWA to fill its greatest needs. This is because the income gained from IGAs allows PKGWA to serve more emergency needs, which PKGWA found it most difficult to response as it costs a lot of money.


Recently, PKGWA noted there are some positive political developments and changes. While the new government seems to be a new hope in many aspects, they have not yet caused any positive changes in the conflict zones. This will take time, how much they wish to now.

Miss Mae So (pseudonym) - Indirect Beneficiary of CBO support

Miss Mae So (pseudonym) is a 25 years old Kha-mee, who is originally from Nyauy Pin Shain Village, Pauk Taw Township, in Arakan State. In Myanmar, she was a daily worker in a rice field. Her parents died when she was 11 years old due to sickness and she had to leave school to take care of her two sisters.

Although her hometown is not in clash zones, the conflict with the Rohingya made it difficult for her family to earn a living. There were very few job opportunities available and going out to work on the rice field was considered dangerous.

In order to support her two sisters, Miss Mae So travelled with another female friend to Mae Sot in December 2012. She has an aunt, who has been in Mae Sot long before she arrived and this aunt helped her get a place at a garment factory. She cut threads, after the clothes were sown, as she did not have skills in sewing but she got paid 100 THB a day. With this little income, she found it really hard to survive, as she needs to send most of the money back to support her sisters.

In February 2015, her aunt introduced her to PKGWA, where she received a six-day training on basic sewing using a sewing machine.

After finishing the training, she was promoted to a better position and was responsible for sewing. She currently earns 160 THB a day and she really feels that the support from PKGWA not only taught her how to sew but also recommended her to people in the factory where she can work and get better pay.

She does not know much about politics or the NLD. However, she wants to go back to Myanmar when she has enough money to start a grocery shop. For her, Thailand is better as there are more job opportunities with many factories to work for and she can be safe. However, Myanmar is still home.

By Sasikarn Paankate, JRS Thailand

[1] JRS IGAs for CBO are decided year by year and can be received up to three years. Every year, the amount will be less and less to avoid dependency.

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