DRAFT - NOT FOR QUOTATION - 17 March 2009
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)
Burma is highly dependent on agriculture. The agricultural sector accounts for almost half of the country’s economy. GDP increased at a rapid rate in the early 1990s after Burma began liberalizing certain sectors of its economy in 1989. However, growth has slowed down since 1996. Burma became a member of the ASEAN in July 1997. Official estimates show that GDP grew by over 10 percent per annum between 2000 and 2005. This increase, however, is not supported by other indicators related to GDP. An objective assessment of economic performance is difficult because of weaknesses in data. Thus, the actual GDP growth rates could be much lower than officially estimated. Burma is an ethnically diverse country with some 130 ethnic groups. The military government has been criticized worldwide for its suppression of the pro-democracy movement. The country has a long border, sharing with Bangladesh, China, India, Laos and Thailand.
The following are among the landmark events that have had a bearing on Burma’s migration experience:
Migration from Burma has progressed in the 1990s in conjunction with full employment and demand for labor in Thailand. The migration was encouraged by better opportunities in Thailand but also by appalling conditions after the September 1988 military takeover in Burma. As of 2006, some 456,083 Burmese migrants were registered with Thai authorities, a number less than that of 2005, 705,293 (AMN, 15 July 2006). They were employed in jobs typically shunned by Thai workers (i.e., as workers in fisheries, warehouses, small factories and restaurants/bars). Burmese women, on the other hand, were working as domestic workers or sex workers. Since November 2006, the government has been issuing provisional (temporary) passports at three offices along the Burmese-Thai border (in Tachilek, Myawaddy and Kawthoung) to Burmese nationals wishing to work in Thailand so they could apply for work permits. Nonetheless, concerns remain over the large presence of irregular Burmese workers in Thailand. Only 80,000 out of some 300,000 Burmese workers currently working in Thailand hold official labor cards issued by the Thai Labor Ministry (AMN, 28 February 2007). Some 120,000 are estimated to have stay visas while the rest are undocumented. Burmese migrants primarily go to Thailand. Other destinations include India, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea (Arnold and Hewison, 2005).
Following renewed fighting between Karen rebels (guerillas) and military troops, some 18,000 ethnic Karen people were forced to leave their homes near Pyinmana (the government’s new capital) and flee to Thailand from February to May 2006 (AMN, 15 June 2006). According to a survey released by the Thai-Burma Border Consortium, some 82,000 people were forced to flee their homes in eastern Burma in 2006 (AMN, 31 October 2006). Apart from the Karen people, there are other ethnic minorities, such as Karenni, Shan and Mon. It is estimated that there are more than half a million internally displaced people in Burma (AMN, 31 May 2006; AMN, 31 October 2006; AMN, 30 June 2007). An NGO has also registered 167,000 refugees in camps along the Thai-Burmese border (AMN, 30 June 2007). It is also estimated that close to 1.5 million Rohingyas (Muslim ethnic group in northern Rakhine State) have left Burma to escape repression against them since its independence in 1948 (Pillar, n.d.). The latest mass exodus occurred in 1991-1992. Most of them now live in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. For more information on the number of displaced people in Burma and persons of concern from Burma, see Tables 1 and 2.
Burma has enacted an anti-trafficking law in September 2005. From July 2002 to September 2006, Burmese authorities detected a total of 748 human trafficking cases, arrested 1,484 traffickers and rescued 3,694 victims (AMN, 28 February 2007).
Arnold, Dennis and Kevin Hewison
2005 “Exploitation in Global Supply Chains: Burmese Migrant Workers in Mae Sot, Thailand.” Available at http://burmalibrary.org/docs3/EXPLOITATION_IN_GLOBAL_SUPPLY_CHAINS.pdf, accessed on 4 December 2008.
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
2007 “Southeast: Myanmar.” In Asian Development Outlook 2007. Available at http://www.adb.org/documents/books/ADO/2007/MYA.asp, accessed on 4 December 2008.
Asian Migration News (AMN) Various Years
n.d. “Ronghiya.” Available at http://www.burmaissues.org/En/rohingya.html, accessed on 20 January 2008.
Population Reference Bureau
2008 “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at http://www.prb.org/pdf08/08WPDS_Eng.pdf, accessed on 21 November 2008.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2007 “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/data_sheets/cty_ds_MMR.html, accessed on 4 December 2008.
http://www.gcir.org/about_immigration/world_map/alphabetical_list_of_countries.htm (No longer available)
 About 2.3 million Rohingya refugees had been flown back home as of 11 September 2003 (AMN, 30 September 2003). Overall, 236,238 Rohingya refugees have returned (AMN, 15 December 2003).