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Friday Forum: Puttaporn Areeprachakun
October 4, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
“The Construction of Othering:
The Study of Migrant Workers from Myanmar in Thailand”
Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Geography
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Migration is seen as a crisis, a problem and a threat. Some scholars see it as a problem based on the discourse of fear. For securing society, migrants have to be divided into good and bad circulations. On the one hand, migrants are an important factor driving some national economies. On the other hand, some migrants are seen as harmful to national security. Some have diseases. Some become criminals. But most of them are seen as a danger to the homogeneity of the people in the host country, and thus endanger the image of the state. Therefore, migration is an important issue to study and to understand, including problems related to migration and ways to solve those problems. Accordingly, to understand issues related to migration, my research seeks to investigate the migrant workers from Myanmar’ lives in Thailand, specifically those who live in the Mahachai area of Samut Sakhon Province. The Mahachai area is well-known for supporting the largest Burmese community in Thailand. The research will investigate the boundaries between the migrant workers from Myanmar and native-born people in this area. My project is shaped by concepts related to labor geographies, managers of unease, identities and performative bordering practices.
The research illustrates the stories of the migrant workers from Myanmar in three main points. First, it talks about how social networks, policies, job opportunities and incomes, social and cultural preference and brokers and accessibility made Mahachai became a biggest Burmese labor market where the migrant workers are easier to be constructed as others and be exploited in Thailand. Secondly, I describe how Thai state, local officials and security professionals (based on the idea of managers of unease from Bigo) view and manage the migrant workers from Myanmar in the Mahachai area. Third, I illustrate the relationships among the migrant workers from Myanmar and native-born workers in a factory. How do those workers shift their identities to be part of other groups in the factory? In this research, I use participant observation, interviews, autoethnography and archival research as my main research methodologies.