Migrant Workers In Thailand Demand More Rights

Network Media Group

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Citing a lack of protection, Myanmar workers lobby the Chiang Mai governor for more safeguards to be put in place while working in Thailand.

An open letter calling for Thailand to do more to ensure the rights of foreign workers in the Kingdom was sent to the governor of Chiang Mai one day after the International Migrants Day.

The letter, drafted by over 100 participants, from Myanmar workers to staff of a labour rights group, listed 20 demands to the Thai and Myanmar governments to improve working arrangements for Myanmar nationals living in Thailand.

Thong Kham, an employee of MAP Foundation, a migrant association based in northern Thailand, told Network Media Group the Thai government must solve 15 of the points listed on the open letter and the other 5 points are addressed to the Myanmar government.

“We demand the Thai government allow Burmese migrant workers to attain health insurance, allow migrants to extend their work-permit when they are 55 years old until they are sixty, and equal labour fees for everyone,” Thong Kham said.

Other demands concerned affordable health care for children of migrant workers and for workers to be able to renew their ID while living in Thailand rather than having to return to Myanmar.

Thai hospitals don’t want to provide care for Myanmar workers because their work contracts in Thailand doesn’t include health insurance, said Nang Noon Moon from Shan State.

“If our ID card is expired, we have to go home to make a new ID, and this costs a lot of money,” she said.

Workers want to be able to renew their ID in border towns at Mae Sot or Mai Sai, or at the Myanmar consulate in Chiang Mai, or embassy in Bangkok.

“The Burmese embassy in Thailand must issue marriage certificates for migrant laborers. The government should appoint more staff in our embassy because there is a personnel shortage. And the embassy should allow children who come to Thailand with their parents to get ID in Thailand,” Thong Kham said.

“We are making these demands because in Thailand we aren’t being protected (under the current system),” said Sai Naw Kham, from northern Shan state and employed in a Thai restaurant. Our employers aren’t concerned if we have health care, he said.

In Thailand, there are an 3 million Myanmar (Burmese) workers.

A 2018 study from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found that although Myanmar nationals benefit from working in Thailand more needs to be done to ensure they are protected. A press release for the report on IOM’s website said workers “need more protection to reduce their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.”

Officials from Chiang Mai Provincial Governor Office acknowledged the open letter was received and said there will be a response to the workers’ demands after staff meet for discussions.