MORE than 80 per cent of people in Malaysia and Thailand do not believe undocumented migrant workers should expect any rights at their workplaces, a study released yesterday by the International Labour Org-anisation reveals.
The study, which surveyed attitudes in Thailand, Malay-sia, Singapore and Korea towards migrant workers, also found that fewer than 50 per cent of people in all four countries would report the use of migrant children in dangerous work.
Tens of thousands of Cambodian migrant workers travel to Thailand and Malaysia every year to pursue job opp-ortunities through both legal and clandestine channels.
Maeve Galvin, a communication and advocacy officer at the ILO, said a key trend that emerged in the 4,000-person survey was that those who had the least education and personal experience with migrant workers also harboured the most negative views of them.
“I think it’s stigma. It comes from fear and a lack of awareness. You find the same thing with HIV,” Galvin said.
Education campaigns were needed to change those perceptions, she added.
But Galvin said it was encouraging that in all four countries, the majority of people felt the government should crack down on companies that employed unregistered migrant workers rather than the individual employees themselves.
Thais, in general, held the most negative perception of workers from abroad, with fewer than 10 per cent of those surveyed answering that they had helped a migrant worker integrate into society or get ahead at work.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Educat-ion Centre, said yesterday education and improved skills training could also help Cambodian migrant workers become less susceptible to negative perceptions.
“I think my first impress-ion was finding out that the support for migrant workers’ rights in Thailand and Mal-aysia was much lower than in Singapore and Korea,” he said, explaining that this was because migrants in those countries were more skilled.
“Civil society activists always appeal to the government of Cambodia that we need to be ready for regional competition,’’ he said.
“Cambodians have to be ready in developing human resources – the education system is very important.”