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Indigenous peoples (IPs) Ended up with migrants amid limitless Development in Asia


Two thirds of the world’s indigenous peoples live in Asia, which is more than 2,000 civilizations and languages. They include groups that often referred to as tribal peoples, hill tribes,ethnic minorities or nationalities. Nevertheless of their legal status or the terminology used, many indigenous peoples of Asia experience nonrecognition of their cultural identity, exclusion and marginalization.

While the concept of “indigenous peoples” is rarely incorporated into national laws and constitutions, unfair approaches and stigma that depict indigenous peoples as “economically backward and primitive” persist.

Land and natural resources

Asian indigenous peoples often experience displacement and relocation from their traditional territories, and removal of their lands and resources by both government-led and private-led projects engaged in extractive industries, logging, large-scale plantations, mega-projects and dams.


In South and South-East Asia, indigenous peoples’ agricultural practices such as shifting cultivation, also known as rotating agriculture, also reinforces indigenous peoples’ economic, social and culturalintegrity.

Education and health

Indigenous peoples have lower levels of educational achievement than other population due to lack of education programmein indigenous languages, culturally inappropriate curriculum, distance of schools from indigenous communities, and inadequate

Indigenous women, violence and militarization

Indigenous women continue to pay the price of structural forms of violence and discrimination, as well as from the persistence of conflicts and militarized areas in a number of Asian countries. Numerous cases of rape, sexual enslavement and also killing of indigenous women and girls in conflicts have been reported in a number of countries; very few have been investigated.

Contribution by indigenous peoples

Asian indigenous peoples can make major contributions to their countries. Their traditional knowledge and the effective use and preservation of their lands, forests and natural resources can inspire worldwide measures for conservation and mitigation, particularly in the face of climate change, and disaster risk reduction. Traditional medicines and practices can be shared for the benefit of the wider society.

Indigenous and migration

Indigenous peoples commonly belong to the most marginalized groups in society, often as result of gap and cultural isolation from the dominant culture    of the State. Although indigenous populations are scattered throughout theworld, but approximately 70 percent live in Asia (IFAD, 2007). While the situation of these peoples varies throughout East and South-East Asia, certain harmonies can be seen in their ways of lifebut the challenges they face is about the affected by migration.While recognizing that a larger number of different indigenous                  peopleslive in East and South-East Asia; we focuses mainly on indigenous peoples whose traditional habitats or inherited territories are divided by modern national borders, or who are directly affected by or engage in international migration, whether forced or voluntarily.

Migration of indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples in East and South-East Asia engagein both internal and international migration, within and outside of inheritedterritories. The numbers of the international migration of these groups is not known. International migration within inherited territories often takes places irregularly; even when it occurs through regular channels, the information collected by authorities provides little insight into which populations are making the international crossings. This issue is further compounded by the fact that migration statistics are often hard to obtain, while internal migration is monitored either directly or through censuses, the information is not formulated specifically for indigenouspeoples.

Little exact data exist and also not clear information to the full scale of population movements in the region, and the lack of data collection on migration continues to be a problem for assessing the scale of migration as well as the impact on communities and individuals. Another complicating factor is the challenge of distinguishing between voluntary economic migrationand forced migration.

Citizenship and migration

The main issue that differentiates migration of indigenous peoples from that of majority populations is their often-undefined legal status. Many indigenous people in East and South-East Asia do not have citizenship in the country they reside in or may lack identity papers. For example for many of the Moken who live along the Andaman Coast and on islands in the Andaman Sea, a lack of travel or even identity documents often forces indigenous peoples to engage in irregular migration both externally, when crossing international borders, and internally as their mobility is often limited to the province where their identity papers were issued. Thus, indigenous peoples often have very little choice but to engage in irregular as opposed to regular migration. In addition, lack of citizenship or identity papers can also prevent indigenous peoples from gaining formal employment in their current place of residence. Thus pushing them to engage in migration, especially on irregular migration.

Economic development

The under-representation of indigenouspeoples, their interests in political and economic spheres, and their geographical dispersion often create tension between government goals of economic development and the interests of indigenous people to preserve their way of life and their habitat.

Large-scale infrastructural projects such as road, bridge and dam construction have had both expected and unforeseen consequences for indigenous peoples. This frequently causes increased strain on natural resources, and can lead to tension between newcomers and host communities, especially in the case of indigenous peoples who have had limited contact with other groups or populations. In a number of instances there has been increased vulnerability to HIV infection and to human trafficking. Improved infrastructure in the form of roads, railroads and bridges can also encourage out-migration by indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, in many countries in East and South – East Asia, land rights of indigenous peoples are not formalized; either the State does not recognize communal ownership or property rights are not institutionalized, such as the lack of citizenship prevents members of the group from owning land. The lack of ownership often leads to displacement of indigenous groups through government policies or the influx of outsiders, or through the presence of extractive industries such as logging and mining enterprise.

Extractive industries are often granted reductions in remotes areas to the harm of indigenous peoples whose way of life is shortened by the activities of such companies. Extractive industries often damage the environment in their areas of operation. Environmental degradation in the form of water pollution, loss of biodiversity as well as air pollution may lead to further displacement of indigenous peoples, or they may be forced to abandon their traditional livelihoods,

Push and pull factors

Extreme poverty and marginalization is often the outcome of the uncertainty life. And marginalization is often the outcome of the uncertain legal position of indigenous population, then finally become lacking of land rights. So it seems a combination of factors leads to migration among indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples often migrate to urban area before engaging in international migration. The pull factors encouraging indigenous peoples to migrate are similar to those of non-indigenous peoples. It is assumed that socio-economic factors play a major role, such as better living conditions and access to education. On the one hand, international migration is often considered a more significant event for indigenous peoples, as they are culturally tied to their inherited lands and their identity is often closely linked to the land. For example, migration is facilitated by the fact that the same groups are resident on both sides of and international border. Migration does carry the advantage of often enabling indigenous migrant to send money back to their families and communities.

The most common push factors are poverty and marginalization, which can be the result of

  1. inter-state or civil conflict;
  2. environmental degradation;
  3. government policies, such as the lack of citizenship or land rights
  4. infrastructural projects;
  5. a nomadic or semi-nomadic life-style; and
  6. naturaldisasters.

The main pull factors that encourage indigenous peoples to move are better economic prospects and better educational opportunities in the destination country. The decision to migrate is often a result of several of these factors combined.

Consequences and risks to become victim

Irregular migration, internally and internationally, puts indigenous migrants at risk during migration, at their destination and upon their possible return. Indigenous migrants may be more vulnerable than their majority counterparts are to smuggling and trafficking because of their undefined legal status, or a lack of knowledge of the risks that that irregular migration entails.

Women   and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, forced labored and sexual exploitation. Irregular migrants run the risk of abused by black agent or police harassmentduring migration and at the destination and the risk of being caught at the border or consequently deported.

Indigenous peoples, who are often low-skilledface the risk of exploitation in the form of both abusive labor practices and sexual exploitation. Labor exploitation, in the form of non-payment or underpayment of wages, or poor working conditions, is common for many migrants including indigenous migrants. The uncertain legal status of indigenous migrants makes them more vulnerable to exploitation, as they have fewer or no option to seek compensation. Discrimination against indigenous migrants is often compounded by language and cultural different between majority cultures and that of indigenous peoples.

The challenges facing indigenous peoples who migrate irregularly are similar to those experienced by other migrate irregular migrants, they are often unable to access health care and other basic services at their destination and throughout the migration process. They lack of protection from exploitation and abuse, and the poor living and working conditions of indigenous migrants often increase the risk of contracting communicable diseases tuberculosis, hepatitis and influenza. Malaria is also a threat to indigenous communities in South-East Asia. While mostcommunities are aware of how to protect themselves in their home areas, also migration can make them vulnerable or make access to treatment more difficult .

In addition, migration is also likely to increase the risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS. Indigenous peoples are often less aware of the risk as information and education are often not available in their language.

Migrants are also more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behavior when they are away from their community and unconstrained by the social norms and rules that habitually regulate sexual conduct. The use of drugs which    is more likely among migrants,also increases the risk of HIV infection. Girls and woman trafficked into the sex industry face a number of potential health risks, including the increased risk of HIV infection and other sexual transmitted infections, mental health problems as well as unwanted pregnancies. This is not only harmful to the individual migrant but also to the community in case of return migration.

Migration also carries cultural risks that may be more profound for indigenous peoples, given their unique customs and traditions. In this context, international migration of indigenous peoples as well as in-migration to geographic areas predominantly populated by indigenous peoples may result in thereduction of their customs and cultures. While indigenous cultures should not be viewed as static and unchanging, the loss of identity and cultural heritage is a risk in the context of migration, especially international migration. The outcomes of long-term or permanent migration can be seen as dual; either migration caused indigenous migrants’ distinct culture to weaken as they are integrated into their host countries, or indigenous cultures become more visible through groups maintaining ties with their home communities.


East and South-East Asia are regions with large economic disparities between countries. These disparities shape the migration flow and make it very difficult to establish coherent migration management policies. Governments in the region are trying to manage the supply of, and demand for migrant workers in a way that meets market needs and minimizes irregular migration. While progress is being made in this regard, opportunities for regular migration remain limited, and employer and migrants react by working outside the existing legal framework.

Remittances, which are one of the many benefits of migration, are the most visible and direct benefit for migrants and their families. The volume of remittances received in the region as a whole has grown over the past two and half decades since 1990 has been healthy. Officially, remittances rose from US$ 4.2 billion in 1990 to US$ 50 billion in 2006 – or nearly 12 times. Unknown, but large amount is also remitted through unofficial channels.

In terms of gender balance among migrants,In the face of rising male unemployment or under-employment, increasing numbers of women are seeking work in different types of occupations in foreign countries. Migration is not necessarily their first choice, but at times is a reflection of changing labor market structures, both at home and abroad, that offer specific job opportunities abroad in highly-gendered job categories. However, there are serious limitations to women migrants’ chances for personal socio-economic empowerment due to restrictive migration policies and the prevalence of temporary contract schemes, in combination with their work being undervalued and often not legally recognized.

The migration of millions of adults has an impact on their dependents, particularly children who are usually left behind in their home country, but also who sometimes migrate with their parents. It is those who migrate with their parents that are the most vulnerable and the most seriously affected, even though they constitute a smaller group than the children left behind. Children who migrate internationally as well as children born to irregular migrants often have great difficulty accessing social services or securing a legal identity. Understanding the difficulties faced by child migrants is the first step towards taking action to assist them. However, even with the best of intentions, policies to assist child migrants are difficult to implement, often because of the children’s irregular status in the host country.

Regardless of age or gender, health is a cross-cutting issue that, for a number of reasons is of significance to migration. First, the complex two-way causal nexus between migration and health is of considerable significance in developing an effective health policy. There has been little research on this issue in Asia; while population mobility may appear to be a contributing factor in the spread of disease, such a conclusion is ill-informed because the issue is much more complicated. If countries are committed to improving health, a better understanding of the causes of poor health, the risk factors associated with particular diseases and the related significance of international migration is needed, followed by effective interventions.

Finally, indigenous peoples commonly belong to the most marginalized groups in society, often as a result of spatial and cultural isolation from the dominant culture of the State.

A truly integrated labor movement would be one in which laws, regulations and labour-related institutions are unified; however, the region is very far from achieving such a situation. The MoU signed by six GMS governments on trafficking in persons and the ASEAN Declarations on trafficking and on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers may be first steps towards such coordinated policy formulation.

The participation of women in migration is by no means a recent phenomenon in the region, but what has distinguished recent trends from the past two decades have seen ever-growing numbers of women as a migrants

Finally,    the demand is rising for foreign workers as replacements for ageing workers and caregivers for rapidly expanding populations of the elderly. Japan’s workforce has already started declining, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand will face the same situation in another decade.

Periodic amnesties to address problems of irregular migration

The biggest challenge to policy makers has been the growth of irregular migration, trafficking and consequent large populations of irregular migrants. Widening income differentials between origin and destination countries. However, it is now recognized that the problem needs to be addressed on a broad front, since it has many dimension such as, the need to provide protection to asylum seekers, the displacement of low-skilled native workers, the impact on labor costs in construction and labor-intensive exports, concern over national security, relations with friendly neighboring states, human rights of victims and the education of migrant children.

Growing problems with irregular migration and trafficking in women and children

Large numbers of migrants workers are in an irregular situation in a number of Asian countries .For the region as a whole, as many as one of every four migrant workers may be in an irregular status. The problems have grown for a number of reasons because borders are difficult to secure, because there is strong demand for labor or because of problems with enforcement of impractical regulations that easily turn regular migrants into irregular migrants. These factors all signal the immense dimensions of the problem of managing migration as well as the gravity of the problem of protection, since migrants in an irregular status are highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Child migrants and children of migrants in destination countries

Thailand has received roughly more than 2 million migrants from its poorer neighbors. Some of those migrants brought children with them, and some children migrated independently in search of work. In addition, there are many children of migrants who, although born in Thailand, are not eligible for Thai citizenship and hence face similar problems to children born outside Thailand. A reasonable number of migrant children guess might be more than 200,000 children.

Schools’ admittance policies are not the only barrier to children’s attendance, however. Many poor migrants find the costs of uniforms, books, transport and food prohibitively high. Sending a child to school also means said any income that the child might have earned, which is an important consideration for families living at subsistence level. To enroll their children in school, migrants must deal with Thai officially, which given their insecure legal status, many migrants are reluctant to do. Finally, migrant children themselves often have difficulty coping with instruction in Thai.

In response to these difficulties,some NGOs and migrants have set up informal learning centres for migrants in other parts of the country,

In general, however, migrants enter Thailand for work, not education. Thailand’s legal working age, and the minimum age at which migrants can register for work permits, is 15 years, although workplace surveys generally identify a few workers younger than that minimum limit.

Children’s work can make an important contribution to the welfare of their families. In some cases, the money that children save or remit allows families to improve houses or buy agricultural implements. Even when children do not have a surplus to save or remit, by providing for themselves they can take pressure off the family budget, which can be important to very poor families.

One problem that is faced by all migrants, but which is particularly acute for children, is legal identity. Children who are too young to qualify for identification documents are unable to apply for travel permits, and sometimes have difficulty establishing their identity on returning home, which can increase the risk of exploitation and abuse. Children born in Thailand to foreign parents do not generally qualify for Thai citizenship. However, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Thailand is a signatory, all newborns are supposed to receive birth certificates, regardless of the legal status of their parents.

Challenges for cooperation

While there have been significant problems associated with the emergence of the Asian migration system, most governments of the region today recognize that they have an important stake in the system’s continuance and growth. The adoption by ASEAN summit in Cebu in Jan 2007 of a Declaration on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers was a signal event, it shows consensus among its member States that protecting the migrant workers and ensuring their fair treatment are essential to the integrity of this migration system.