By Emily Martin

Migra-Safe – Educating Cambodians on Safe Migration

For the past month a group of actors from Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) have been travelling around rural villages in the Siem Reap, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces – performing to educate the locals on ‘safe migration’.

PPS has collaborated with Civil Volunteer Group (GVC), an Italian-run NGO and Cambodia Women’s Crisis Centre (CWCC) to create a theatre show as part of a three year project called ‘Migra-Safe’, funded by the European Union.

The theater show follows two women who leave to work in Thailand illegally because they desperately need to pay off debts they owe in their village. They get in touch with a broker and embark on a long and hard journey to get to Thailand. They work in a factory and a construction site – and are not paid for the work they are doing. Being there illegally they can’t do anything about this… they end up coming back to Cambodia – though again it is not an easy journey.

The Phare artists were asked to collaborate on the project because they have a very good reputation within the country. Theatre is also something very new to the people living in these rural villages. The majority of them would never have seen a show like this before. It’s not only education people on issues in their community and homes, but it’s also a chance to expose them to a new art form they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience.

Stefania Pirani, Project Manager of GVC says “We spoke with different stakeholders and experts and came to the conclusion that theatre was the most suitable medium to use, as it is very suitable for young people, who are particularly likely to migrate in search for work. Many Cambodians are illiterate, so visual arts/theatre are more effective to convey messages.”

“Many migrants from Cambodia to Thailand are irregular and they don’t really have any information about what they have to do in order to be a regular migrant. They don’t know that they need a passport, where they can get one, what documents they need… and then if they go they are really exploited.”

Thousands of Cambodians cross the border into Thailand each year, most of them irregularly without the required passports and work permits etc. Most of them will go into construction, factory work or fishing. While working there, most of them will not be paid a far wage or maybe anything at all. They will work hard and long hours – being exploited but not knowing what to do, or how to improve their situations.

“The aim of the project is to give the villagers the information they need. The bigger aim is that if they chose to migrate, they will do it safely. The MIGRA SAFE project also gives information about the rights that regular migrants have. We can also give them contacts that they can get help from in Thailand.”

The theatre show is the first activity of the wider project and it goes hand-in-hand with the dissemination of information. “Parallel to the theater we actually go to the villages for the dissemination of information material. We give them either t-shirt, caps or a calendar for 2015 where there’s all the information they need. Through that we reach about 300 families in every village. We also ask the families questions focusing on what they know about migrating safely, through a questionnaire.”

The families GVC are approaching have been pointed out to them by the Commune Chiefs. With this local and close knowledge of the villages the team are able to target families who might be more prone to unsafe migration or already have family members in Thailand.

The visits are done on the day of the performance – a way to remind the community that it’s on that night. The artists also do a drive through the village with a loud speaker to make sure no one forgets!

The turnout has been fantastic – on average 400-600 people are watching the shows, held at the local Pagoda.

“Following the theatre show we’ll go back to the villages and ask the families some questions and see what they have learnt from the information provided through the calendars and show.”

“The ultimate outcome is to inform the villagers as much as possible about safe migration, and inform them about their rights so they can make informed choices.

The Migra-safe Theatre Tour will be wrapping up at the end of January 2015.


For more information on safe migration download this document:

Read more about GVC

Hire Phare Artists for your own private event or project.