Citing harsh conditions, Myanmar refugee families refuse farm work


Two Myanmar families who came to Japan from Thailand last year under a U.N.-sponsored settlement program have refused to work on a farm in Chiba Prefecture due to the conditions, according to a member of a lawyer group representing them.

The families, who settled in the prefecture in March, are looking for jobs in Tokyo after complaining about the long work hours and low wages paid by the agricultural corporation that is running the farm during the training period, Shogo Watanabe of the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees said at a news conference Monday.

They have refused to take the farming jobs as labor conditions have not improved despite a work boycott in July, Watanabe added.

The two families were among five families that arrived in Japan as the first batch of 90 refugees from Myanmar that the government plans to accept from the Mera camp in northwestern Thailand, near the border with Myanmar, between 2010 and 2013. The other three families have settled in Mie Prefecture.

All five families have been receiving orientation and language training since last October. Japan is the first Asian country to take part in the U.N. program.

The refugees fled Myanmar to escape the suppression of human rights by the military junta. The resettlement program is designed to help such refugees begin new lives in other countries.

The lawyer group said it has urged the Foreign Ministry to improve and sufficiently supervise the work-training programs.