View Full Version : Challenges faced by migrant workers in Thailand

12-05-2015, 03:04 AM
Challenges faced by migrant workers in Thailand (http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/5669)
Migrant Workers Rights Network
Fri, 04/12/2015

There are around 3 million regular and irregular Myanmar migrant workers living and working in Thailand. Of this 3 million workers, it is estimated that around: (a) 1.7 million workers possess a Myanmar temporary passport issued as a result of a national verification (NV) process that stems from an agreement under a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Royal Thai Government (RTG) and the Myanmar government to regularize irregular migrant workers from Myanmar living and working in Thailand; (b) 200, 000 workers came regularly into Thailand through a formal migration process from Myanmar since 2010 created under the MoU agreement; and (c) 500, 000 workers received a ‘pink card’ through the Thai government’s One Stop Service Center (OSSC) irregular worker regularization policy and processes since May 2014. These three registration status for migrant workers from Myanmar in Thailand brings to a total of 2.4 million the number of migrant workers with regular or legal status to live and work currently in Thailand.

From 2009 to 2013, the RTG and the Myanmar government implemented an agreement on the processing of national verification (NV) for irregular Myanmar migrants in Thailand so that these workers could be issued a temporary passport and become fully legal to work in Thailand. Initially the framework after issuing the Myanmar passport through the NV process from the RTG side was to issue a 2 year of visa and work permit which was extendable for another 2 years on expiry, hence granting permission for an NV worker to remain in Thailand for a maximum of 4 years prior to their having to return to Myanmar for at least 3 years. However, there was no systematic preparation from either Myanmar or Thai governments or worker’s employers on how to maintain the legal status of these workers after their 4 years stay in Thailand begun to expire in 2013.

Without any plans in place, migrant workers who had already completed the 4 years NV visa had to live with an overstay visa and faced many challenges. During that period, many campaigners requested the RTG to provide an urgent remedy. Finally, and in a somewhat unsystematic and little publicised policy u-turn, the RTG then agreed to extend stay permission for this group of workers for another 2 years, hence allowing them up to 6 years legal stay in Thailand instead.

As of 2015, this 6 year visa and stay permission has now begun to expire. However, again both governments do not have any concrete policy or programme in place or publicised on how to maintain these workers’ legal status beyond 6 years. As a consequence, again an unclear future for these workers has arisen and workers have been left confused hearing different rumors on what would happen next. Eventually, these workers will perhaps become irregular workers again.

The MoU formal migration process from Myanmar to Thailand, a policy and practice developed by the Myanmar and Thai governments, requires that persons who entered Thailand regularly through this channel must return to Myanmar if they wish to extend their visa and stay permission after the 4 year visas allowed to be granted to them have expired. From the very start of this MoU process, migrant workers have been exploited and abused at every stage by brokers in both Myanmar and Thailand, leaving them with no choice but to pay extortionate amounts for the processes that are too onerous for the migrant workers and much higher than official fees prescribed by law and regulations. These workers have been forced to work hard to pay off their debts incurred. With the cost for the current visa extension processes beyond 4 years currently required under this registration channel charged by brokers, plus the cost of travelling back to Myanmar, these workers will only end up with more debt incurred. Some migrant workers who chose this MoU formal migration process have after 4 years of staying in Thailand simply opted to overstay their visa validity and become irregular to avoid returning to Myanmar.

It appears as a result of recent regularization processes announced by the Thai government since 2014 that the next logical step for migrant workers who completed their 4 or 6-year visas to stay and work legally in Thailand simply abandon their temporary passports and apply for the Pink Card through the RTG’s OSSC processes. As a result, these workers are no longer entitled to social security schemes and work accident compensation and also have their freedom of movement limited to a province of registration. Once these workers have registered for this pink card, once again however they will still need according to the official policy to return to Myanmar for another national verification process and hence will once again during this verification process and prior to receiving another passport become victims of brokers who take advantage of this situation stemming from lack of a long term and consistent migration policy between the Myanmar and Thai Governments.

There are also many challenges with the Myanmar government’s policies regarding migrant workers’ protection, including concerning services which assist migrant workers to work legally in Thailand. As an example, the process for issuing a passport at the Myanmar Embassy for those who have required house registration documents takes up to 4 to 6 months when in fact with a house registration and Myanmar ID card the same process takes only 10 days when undertaken in Myanmar. Applying for a passport in the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand also proves to be a more difficult process for those with expired visas. MWRN earnestly urge the Myanmar government to implement efficient and user-friendly processes to support the government’s initial objective of protecting migrant workers to work legally in Thailand in accordance with the MoU.

We, the Migrant Worker Rights Network (M.W.R.N), therefore request the Myanmar and Thai Governments to give immediate attention to the following recommendations which will have a considerable impact on the lives of migrant workers in Thailand who faced the above difficulties:

Reissue passports and extend the visas within Thailand or at border check points for those
Myanmar workers whose 6 year visas have expired without deportation through efficient, fast and low cost transparent processes created following immediate negotiation between Myanmar government and the RTG.
Reissue passports and extend the visas within Thailand or at border check points for those Myanmar workers whose 4 year formal migration MoU process visas have expired without deportation through efficient, fast and low cost transparent processes created following immediate negotiation between the Myanmar government and RTG.
Implement efficient, fast and low cost transparent processes for the national verification or issuance of passports for migrant worker who are ‘Pink Card’ holders.
Publish widely, strategically and transparently all policies and fees relevant to migrant worker registration and regularization for the above mentioned processes to avoid unacceptable exploitation by brokers.
Create, implement and monitor closely legal remedies which can prevent brokers from overcharging fees to migrant workers and to penalize those brokers who violate the law.

The Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) was founded in 2009 by Myanmar migrant workers from Samut Sakorn district (Mahachai), Thailand to work on issues which affect all migrant workers. MWRN is working together with both Myanmar and Thai government related sectors, civil society organizations and international organizations on education, social and migrant rights issues. Currently there are 4, 511 members of MWRN.

Source (http://migrantworkerrightsnetwork.org/)


12-18-2015, 02:42 PM
400,000 migrant workers in Thailand at risk of deportation (http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/5710)
Fri, 18/12/2015

A civil society group providing assistance to migrants in Thailand has stated that nearly 400,000 migrants are currently at risk of deportation while human trafficking problems are still endemic.

On Thursday, 18 December 2015, International Migrants Day, the Migrant Working Group (MWG), a civil society organisation based in Thailand, held a press conference to launch its 2015 report ‘Migrant Crisis Protection’ at Xavier Hall in central Bangkok.

The MWG stated that the Thai government has failed to process, provide with basic services, and guarantee basic rights to migrants and refugees in the country.

Adisorn Kerdmonkol, the representative of MWG, told the press at the conference that according to data from the Ministry of Labour, between 1 April and 30 June 2015, the Office of Foreign Workers Administration registered 1,049,326 migrant workers at the Office’s One Stop Service Centre (OSS).

Currently, only 133,917 migrants have completed the process to determine their nationalities to have their work permits renewed. However, there are as many as 400,000 migrants who have been left out of the process.

These 400,000 migrant workers, most of whom are from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, do not have access to basic state services and are at risk of being deported back to their countries of origin or falling prey to human traffickers, Adisorn said.

He pointed out that without official papers, illegal migrant workers are not protected and prone to abusive treatment from employers, adding that the process to register migrant workers in the country is extremely slow and plagued with corruption.

Siwawong Suktawee, another MWG representative, added that the Thai authorities under the military government have also repeatedly failed to comply with the international ‘non-refoulement’ principle of the UNHCR when it comes to dealing with refugees.

Last month, the Thai authorities deported back to China two Chinese activists in self-imposed exile who already received refugee status from the UNHCR and were awaiting resettlement in Canada. Earlier in July 2015, the Thai military government deported nearly 100 Uighurs from several detention centres in Bangkok back to China.

The deportation of the Uighurs sparked protests in Turkey in early July. The protesters attacked Thailand’s honorary consulate in Istanbul, smashing windows and destroying other property. About a month after the deportation, on 17 August 2015, Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong intersection, one of the busiest in central Bangkok, was rocked by a bomb attack which left 20 people dead and 135 injured.

Siwawong also said that the weak rule of law and corruption in human trafficking play a key role in creating an environment where human trafficking rings can operate.

He illustrated his statement with the case of Maj Gen Paween Pongsiri, the former head of the team investigating the human trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who is now seeking asylum in Australia after his investigation led to 153 arrest warrants being issued against suspects in human trafficking rings, some of whom are high-ranking military officers.

Siwawong alleged that human trafficking activities along the western Andaman coast of southern Thailand have been allowed to persist because of the involvement of officials in the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 under the military.

After the discovery of mass graves along the Thai-Malaysian border in May 2015, 91 people, including a high ranking Army officer, Maj Gen Manas Kongpan, four police officers, and the former head of the Satun Provincial Administration Organisation, Patchuban Angchotphan, were arrested. Another 62 suspects, however, are still at large.

The discovery of the mass graves, which made headlines worldwide, coupled with the US government’s decision to keep the country on Tier-3 in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Reports for two consecutive years and fear of trade sanctions from the EU, especially in the lucrative fishery industry, prompted the Thai authorities to clamp down on human trafficking networks, which had previously been ignored.


01-11-2016, 02:00 PM
Migrants, CSOs and the battle for labour rights in Thailand (http://asiancorrespondent.com/2016/01/migrants-csos-and-the-battle-for-labour-rights-in-thailand/)
John Quinley III
11th January 2016

http://asiancorrespondent.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Thailand-Fishing-Industry-940x580.jpgBurmese workers work on a fishing boats at a pier in Prachuabkhirikhant province, southern Thailand.
Pic: AP.

MIGRANT workers in Thailand are discriminated against, scapegoated, vulnerable to exploitation, and human rights abuses. Over the years, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) have played a key role in providing support, empowering communities and documenting abusive practices against migrant workers in Thailand.

Thailand in 2015 had numerous instances of discrimination and labour abuses against migrants. In the coming year, CSOs should continue to be an integrated part of providing services and documenting abuses against migrants. In December 2015, a panel discussion in Bangkok (http://fccthai.com/items/1822.html) led by Migrant Working Group (MWG) focused on ways CSOs can work with migrants in Thailand. There are over four million migrants living in Thailand today, with the majority from Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Laos.

One example of CSO involvement and support of migrants was after the tragic murder of tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller British took place on September 15, 2014 on the island of Koh Tao. On December 24 last year, two Burmese migrant workers were found guilty of the brutal murders and were sentenced to death. The murder investigation was criticized due to the alleged torture of both migrants and mishandling of evidence by Thai police.

This case, and others like it, shows the lack of justice and agency migrants have in Thailand. However, continued collaboration with CSOs, government and business can bring about better services and rights for migrants.

“There must be a thorough and impartial investigation into these claims of torture, which the police itself should not be involved in,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

CSOs Work with the Business Sector

A report (http://lasvegassun.com/news/2015/dec/12/global-supermarkets-selling-shrimp-peeled-by-slave/) by Associated Press (AP) exposed hundreds of small shrimp peeling factories in Samut Sakon’s underground economy, with men, women and children made to work for little or no pay. There is complicity and corruption among police and state authorities. The AP report stated that “pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world’s biggest shrimp providers.” Prime Minister’s Office spokesman, Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said of the AP report (http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/799812/), “this is a one-sided, extremely irresponsible report. It has tarnished Thailand’s image even as the government is seriously cracking down on illegal and slave workers, especially in the seafood industry.”

The business community was more accepting of the report. Thai Union Group (TU), one of the world’s largest seafood producers, called (http://www.reuters.com/article/thai-union-labour-idUSL3N1432Q620151214) the report “another wake-up call for the industry.” However, there have been major documented abuses (http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/thai-union-chicken-of-the-sea-exposed-for-human-rights-abuses-again/) of migrant workers taking place in TU facilities. The New York Times released (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/27/world/outlaw-ocean-thailand-fishing-sea-slaves-pets.html?_r=2) a report linking trafficking and slave labour to TU’s supply chain. Furthermore, Nestlé put out a report showing forced labour in its seafood supply chain in Thailand and has made commitments to stop such practices.

Businesses hiring migrants in 2016 should continue to support and end pervasive exploitation in the industry and collaborate with CSOs.
Numerous CSOs have started partnerships with businesses; for example, TU and Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN), a CSO working with migrants, formed a collaborative effort to provide migrant children with access to education. Another very promising partnership is between MWRN and TU who is committed to allow MWRN full and transparent access to its five seafood export facilities in Thailand.

MWRN is a membership-based organization for migrant workers primarily from Burma. Andy Hall, an advisor to MWRN, who has been working with migrants in Thailand for over 10 years, described the MWRN as a “workers voice organization” in a phone interview, emphasizing the need for workers voices to be heard and for solutions to come from “participation and local knowledge.”

British human rights activist Andy Hall.
Pic: AP.

“Businesses have better relationship with the government than CSOs. I think it is more effective to work with businesses who can then pressure the government,” Hall added.

In 2013 Natural Fruit Company sued Hall for defamation under the Computer Crimes Act for documenting and exposing abuses against migrants in a report by Finnwatch called, “Cheap Has a High Price.” (http://www.finnwatch.org/images/cheap%25252525252520has%25252525252520a%2525252525 2520high%25252525252520price_exec%25252525252520su mmary_final.pdf) Hall has been ordered to surrender himself to custody this week prior to his official indictment on defamation charges.

CSOs Combating Trafficking of Migrants and Refugees

Migrant workers remain vulnerable to human trafficking in the region. Recently, one of the chief investigators in a high profile trafficking case, Police Major General Paween Pongsirin, fled the country to Australia following alleged threats to his life. Paween led the team of investigators and prosecutors in unveiling human trafficking syndicates that brought about the arrest of 91 individuals earlier this year, including government officials. Thai police have considered filing a defamation suit against him. According to human rights group Fortify Rights, only 12 of 500 (http://www.fortifyrights.org/publication-20151224.html) witnesses are receiving protection during the high profile trafficking case. CSOs have been at the forefront of providing assistance and tools to migrant workers on safe and informed migration.

Regional Technical Coordinator of UN Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT), Paul Buckley, said that, “CSOs are on the front line of counter-trafficking efforts, identifying victims and providing assistance and information to those in need.”

In the midst of this landscape, CSOs have a major role to play in empowering and providing services to migrant workers vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation in Thailand. Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, said during the panel discussion that,“Thai fishing fleets have operated outside the law for decades.” He confirmed that many of the investigative reports in recent years exposing human rights abuses in the labour industry would not have been possible “without CSOs’ on-the-ground knowledge and local understanding of the environment.”

“CSOs provide a much needed source of information and advocacy on rights protection for migrant workers and they are most effective when working to empower migrant workers themselves,” Buckley added.

ILO GLP Program

Citing the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Good Labour Practices (GLP) program as an example, Hall believes some recent approaches are ineffective, stating the program has, “fundamentally failed” according to the Bangkok Post.
The program was funded by the United States Department of Labour and is now being funded by the EU. It focuses its efforts on seafood factories, child labour and Thai fishing boats. Hall said in a phone interview that the ILO should start “facilitating a tripartite dialogue… educate workers about their rights and create social dialogue between workers, employers and governments.”

He voiced concern about the merits of the ILO GLP program and the amount of funds spent, and the overall effectiveness of the program. Compared to CSOs, Hall said he was “not sure what the ILO can add.” The main barrier to the program success is that workers are not giving enough voice in the process.

Max Tuñón, ILO Senior Program Officer and Coordinator of the GMS TRIANGLE project said in an interview thatthe GLP program is not a magic bullet but just a piece in a larger puzzle. Tuñón, added that the program wants to start working closer with industry and business to solve disputes. The program needs to have a “results framework” for measuring its impact said Tuñón

Although there are differing views on the GLP program, it can be seen that further coordination and collaboration is needed. Hopefully in 2016 there will be sustained collaboration among CSOs, government and multilateral organizations working to assist and participate with migrants in Thailand. Through this participatory approach migrants will be able to gain more access to services and human rights.

Kohnwilai Teppunkunngam, a lawyer working with migrants, said at the panel discussion she believes CSOs, “are the first to reach out to migrants and will be the last to leave.”