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South Thai Floods Hit Burmese Migrants

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At least 10,000 Burmese migrants working at fisheries, rubber plantations and construction sites in southern Thailand are suffering from financial hardship and food shortages due to serious flooding in the area, according to a local NGO.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Htoo Chit, the director of the Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development project, which is currently trying to supply enough food to all the affected Burmese migrants in the devastated region, said several factories have been flooded and many workers from the factories have had to take shelter in the houses of their acquaintances or in Buddhist monasteries.

"Many migrant workers have asked our group for aid," he said. "The main need is rice. I met workers who have not eaten a meal for nearly two days."

"I cannot live in the accommodation that the company provided [because of flooding damage]," said Maung Zaw, a Burmese who has been working at the Asian Seafood company in Suratthani. "I have taken shelter at my friend's house. We all have to share our food rations. We have not been able to work now for nearly 15 days."

Since March 23, at least 47 people have been killed and 579,000 families have been affected by the flooding in the southern provinces of Chumphon, Nakorn Si Thammarat, Suratthani, Trang, Krabi and Patthalung, according to Thai media.

Suratthani is currently in the path of the floodwater and remains on high alert, according to the Bangkok Post.

"We can't work because our factory is flooded," said migrant worker Myint Than. "We have to make do with what little food we have. We have not been told if we will get paid for all the days we could not work."

Burmese migrant workers generally receive about 172 Thai baht [US $6.00] per day and 32 baht [$1.10] per hour for overtime, he added.

"If the flooding continues and we don't get support, we really will be in big trouble," he said.

Local authorities in the south of Thailand previously alerted residents not to go out because crocodiles from a private reservation had escaped, he added.

There are an estimated two to four million Burmese migrants in Thailand, although only 1,310,686 have officially registered as migrant workers.