Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wall Street Journal: Globalization and Exploitation of Burmese Workers on Thai Border

The Burma Connection


October 13, 2007; Page A1

Shortly after dawn six days a week, scores of young women scramble down a muddy track north of this border town and clamber aboard metal boats for a short trip across the Moei River, the narrow, cocoa-brown boundary between Myanmar and Thailand.

The women, victims of the economic ruin visited on this country by the world's most enduring military dictatorship, are on their way to work in a factory on the opposite riverbank in Thailand. In the late afternoon, they cross back to Myanmar.

The commute serves a global textile industry driven by powerful forces. One is the misery of the nation formerly known as Burma, home to legions desperate for work. Another is America's appetite for low-cost lingerie.

The women work at Top Form Brassiere (Mae Sot) Co., a unit of a Hong Kong-listed company, Top Form International Ltd. Most of the six million bras it will sew at its plant along the Moei River this year will end up in U.S. stores under names like Maidenform and Vanity Fair.

The labels say "Made in Thailand." The workers, though, come mostly from Myanmar.


This is a page 1 story in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ is the most widely read daily newspaper in the world.

Two things come to mind. First, the quality of this journalism is high. This is the type of journalism the Thai media should be doing, but doesn't. Second, the Thai media won't be able to blame the farang, the Chinese and Indians for the Burmese problem much longer if stories like this continue. People are going to start wondering what Thailand's relationship is with Burma and will report on it. The Thai media can take the stand that Thailand is blameless regarding Burma or it can start pointing out the dodgy business that enables the Burma's junta to sustain its iron grip on the country.

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