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Thailand’s Ministry of Labour plans to seek cabinet approval to endorse some 300,000 illegal migrants who failed to go through nationality verification process.
Permanent-Secretary for Labour Somkiat Chayasriwong said the deadline of the nationality verification process set by the Thai government has passed but there are still about 300,000 illegal migrants workers who have not been through the process.
The government earlier extended the nationality verification procedure which ended in June to December 14 to verify the nationality of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao before registering them to work in Thailand.
Nationality verification is significant in solving the problem of illegal foreign labour employment.
Mr Somkiat said the labour ministry is now drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the three neighbouring countries to issue temporary passports for the migrant workers whose nationalities have not yet been verified so that they will have legal status in the kingdom.
As of now, the Lao PDR and Cambodia agreed with the idea, said Mr Somkiat, adding the ministry is discussing with the Myanmar authorities on Friday on the matter.
Mr Somkiat said the issue will be proposed for Thai cabinet approval early next year. The employers will be required to send the names of employees whose nationality has not yet been verified to the ministry within a one month timeframe.
He said all the process will be complete within three months from sending the name list. The illegal migrant workers are obliged to collect their temporary passports at the locations determined by their country of origin, such as Lao migrant workers, who will have to cross a border to get their passports, while the Cambodians can collect their passports at the embassy in Bangkok.
By MCOT online news
Published on 20 December 2012
Press Release (3/2012)
10th waxing of Tazaungmon 1374
(23 November 2012)
1. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Thailand have been jointly holding meetings for Myanmar migrant workers. The 12th
Myanmar-Thai workers affairs meeting will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 26 November 2012.
2. Myanmar delegation led by U Myint Thein, Deputy Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security will attend the meeting.
3. The meeting will focus on the ongoing work in implementing the agreements reached between Myanmar President and Thai Prime Minister during the President’s goodwill visit to Thailand, and the minutes of the previous meetings.
4. The Thai side has proposed to concentrate on two topics – the expiry of the process of issuing temporary visas for Myanmar workers on 14 December, and nationality verification. However, other issues such as the topics raised by the President during the visit and issuance of legal documents for children and dependents of the workers, protection of Myanmar workers, comprehensive MoU in sending new Myanmar workers, and sending back Myanmar workers with no legal documents.
5. Moreover general matters includes quicker money transfers by the banks,educational opportunities for children of migrant workers, issuance of documents for seasonal migrant workers, protection of Myanmar workers facing unfair labour and pressures on board trawlers, lessening the punishments on and the amnesty for Myanmar workers serving prison terms in Thailand, and the review of the MoU signed in 2003 and its amendment at an appropriate time.
6. Thailand is expressing its intention through the media that it will not continue to host illegal workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia after 14 December 2012.
7. According to the estimation of international organizations, there are over two million Myanmar workers in Thailand. It also says that temporary visas have not been issued for about 300,000 registered workers yet, and about one million workers still remained to be registered.
8. However, the international community at present is praising the efforts of the two governments to issue proper documents for Myanmar workers as per the international practices.
9. If the process is halted it will have adverse impact on the interest of bothcountries and workers’ rights. Moreover, Thai entrepreneurs will face criticism of international organizations and NGOs dealing with the affairs of illegal migrant workers in Thailand. So, Myanmar will insist on extending the term in connection with the said matter.
Some 285 million workers will migrate for employment when ASEAN countries open their borders to each other in 2015, Prime Minister Hun Sen predicted yesterday, as he urged speedier regional legislative action to ensure they could travel safely.
At an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council meeting, the premier warned that some countries’ legislative barriers could prevent ASEAN from producing the necessary legal frameworks by the 2015 deadline.
“The acceleration for an actual agreement for a management of protection and promotion rights of the migrant workers is needed to be signed before 2015,” said Hun Sen.
The premier did not specifically point the finger at any one country, though Cambodia itself is now in protracted negotiations with Malaysia to establish a Memorandum of Understanding to protect workers heading there for jobs.
Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, suggested that that deal was not far from fruition.
“We are working with Malaysia on legislative mechanism management before moving toward signing an MOU,” he said.
Hun Sen banned Cambodian recruitment firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia last October following a raft of abuses there including deaths, alleged rapes and beatings.
The only country with whom Cambodia has signed an MOU to curtail such exploitation is Thailand, where approximately 36,500 workers had migrated since 2006, Mean said.
He added that 11,290 Cambodians had legally migrated to Malaysia since 2000 to work as maids and that non-ASEAN destination countries included South Korea and Japan.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre, said he estimated that some 300,000 of Cambodia’s 14 million citizens were now working abroad.
“They should have the right to join the trade union, and they should have the right to collective bargaining,” he said.
ASEAN countries that did not have such protections need to adopt the legal standards stipulated in International Labour Organization conventions on freedom of association, collective bargaining and the prevention of child labour, he added.
On a separate topic, Hun Sen also said yesterday that the Asian Development Bank had provided ASEAN with $500 million for regional infrastructure to improve connectivity, with additional support for the project from China, Japan and South Korea.
By Vong Sokheng, Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 26 October 2012
In a rare intervention, the Thai Labour Ministry has stepped in to stop the exploitation of migrant workers from Cambodia and Myanmar at a seafood factory in the country’s south, correspondence obtained by the Post reveals.
The ministry found the Phatthana Seafood factory, in Songkhla province, which employs about 600 Cambodian workers, had breached at least three provisions of Thailand’s labour laws.
In a letter to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in July, the ministry said it found Phatthana had withheld workers’ passports and deducted fees from salaries to pay a third-party recruitment firm, in breach of labour regulations.
“In this regard, the Ministry of Labour has intervened to address unlawful practices on the part of the employer. Measures to rectify the situation have been implemented and some interventions are still on going [sic],” the letter reads.
The intervention followed strikes at the factory and months of pressure from civil society groups for government action after the Post reported in January that workers felt they had been misled about conditions there by the Cambodian recruitment firm CDM Manpower.
Most seriously, allegations were raised that under the guise of providing a safety deposit service for workers’ passports, Phatthana was withholding them, leading some desperate Cambodians to flee the premises without travel documents.
Thai police, who after one inspection of the factory declared there was no problem, have been accused of beating and shaving the heads of some workers before extorting money from them and firing shots in the air to disperse a protest.
Andy Hall, a foreign expert at Mahidol University’s Institute of Population and Social Research in Bangkok, said that since the intervention of the Thai Ministry of Labour, conditions at the factory had significantly improved, although some concerns remained.
“I think the response has to be acknowledged, supported and praised, because I think the response to the Phatthana case was better than we have seen in the past,” Hall said.
Sum Chanpisey, a translator for Phatthana, said all the problems at the factory had now been resolved.
“Everything had been solved since the Ministry of Labour, the Cambodian embassy official and the factory intervened,” he said.
Phatthana, a big global seafood supplier with clients that include the US retail giant Walmart, is a subsidiary of the Thai conglomerate PTN Group.
By David Boyle, Phnom Penh Post
Published on 23 October 2012
An inside look into one of the country’s most prosperous immigrant communities
Ha Thanh Nguyen has vivid childhood memories of her immigrant family’s hard-knock beginnings in the Czech Republic. After relocating here in 1997, her father and mother abandoned their former career paths in law enforcement and health care to take up roadside retail, a humble trade that gives most members of the local Vietnamese community their start. Each day of the week, they would wake up at 3 a.m. to travel to “the stalls,” where they would purvey cheap Chinese textiles for the following 14 hours, rain or shine.
As they searched for new business opportunities, the Nguyens and their relatives relocated constantly, leapfrogging among north, south and Moravian towns like Chomutov, Zábřeh and Hřensko. Ha Thanh, like many of her peers, was often left with Czech caretakers when her parents stayed overnight at the outdoor markets to avoid long commutes.
“The second generation tends to have it tough,” Ha Thanh says. “We lived through that path of assimilation alongside our parents, and those experiences, good and bad, definitely left their mark on us.”
For the 20-year-old, life nowadays seems at least a generation away from the one her family led in the 1990s. Now a scenography student at the Prague Film and TV Academy (FAMU), she recently began appearing on national television. Her role in Ordinace v Růžové zahradě, a widely followed soap opera, makes her one of few Vietnamese to have appeared in local mass media. Her achievement has been duly noted and welcomed by thousands of her compatriots, but Ha Thanh herself shrugs it off.
“I’m not representing the Vietnamese community. My main worries were, does this work with my school schedule or not?” she says. “A female Asian actress is still a rarity in the Czech Republic, even though things have progressed and the Vietnamese are becoming more visible. My role is still always about racial themes, never about the individual. I understand this interests people, but I myself don’t feel the need.”
With her nonchalant sense of independence, Ha Thanh helps illustrate the quiet integration of one of the country’s most successful immigrant groups. Statisticians estimate some 57,000 Vietnamese currently reside here, while tens of thousands more live in illegality. Compared with similarly prominent populations of Slovaks, Ukrainians, Poles and Russians, the Vietnamese stand out with their successful record of integration: They hold more permanent residencies, have the most children and are the most successful on the employment market. Around 93 percent of the working-age community has jobs, and though a majority still runs small textile or corner market operations, many are becoming doctors, lawyers, corporate business owners or academics.
Each year brings an estimated 4,666-strong wave of newcomers, creating a spectrum of business opportunities for more established Vietnamese catering to the specific needs of their compatriots.
Opening up for business on a recent morning, vendors at the SAPA Asian market in Prague 4-Libuš folded heaps of Chinese-made warehouse clothing into tidy displays. Growing since 1999 on the premises of a former meat-processing plant and chicken farm, the sprawling complex breathes a distinct South Asian vibe that has earned it the nickname “little Hanoi.” Youths in bamboo hats wheel carts of fresh fruit and juice between produce and meat shops selling everything from sweet basil to fertilized duck eggs, while men breakfast on steaming bowls of traditional noodle soups at prefab corner diners before heading off to work.
Tented textile stalls take up most of the complex, but it is the array of Vietnamese-language signs advertising services in translation, visa help, air travel, telecommunications and legal aid that underscores SAPA’s “city within a city” reputation.
Hieu Bui, 49, says between 50 and 60 customers approach him daily at his tiny agency, Hieu Bui Travel, to wire money home via Western Union, typically in regular payments ranging from $500 to $1,000.
“They usually come here for work and need to help out their families at home,” he says. “Eight years ago, I used to sell textiles, but then I saw a demand on the market.”
Given the low profit margins collected by typical SAPA textile vendors, the steady flow of customers in Hieu’s office points to the community’s dedication to frugality.
“I’m here morning to night, but I can’t say we make much money,” says Nguyen Thu Thiet, 38, who has lived in Prague for 10 years. Straightening hundreds of Chinese-made sock pairs into orderly mounds, she says most of her customers are befriended Vietnamese clothes sellers who have shops downtown. Starting her own business took seven years of saving up and building contacts.
“After paying the rent for the stall and the warehouse price for the merchandise, my husband and I have just about enough to feed our children,” she says.
According to the latest World Bank data, each Vietnamese living abroad sends an average of $2,250 home each year. Dollar remittances to Vietnam reached $9 billion in 2011, or 8 percent of the country’s GDP.
The first waves of Vietnamese immigration to Czechoslovakia date to the late 1950s, when groups of child refugees from the Vietnam War were placed here. The following decades saw the development of bilateral cooperation in science and technology, drawing hundreds of students seeking skills in fields ranging from engineering to textiles or food production. By 1985, some 19,350 Vietnamese citizens resided here, according to Eva Pechová from local NGO La Strada.
The communist era also saw the emergence of a black market with cheap Asian-made goods, which arrived in the country by the plane load, unchecked by customs officials. Though contemporary police and media reports continue to link the Vietnamese to smuggling and counterfeiting as well as drug sales, only a negligible portion of the population takes up these activities, according to Pechová.
The community is also currently in the spotlight amid the ongoing government hunt for methanol-tainted alcohol, but its representatives say this is unwarranted.
“The only case of alcohol tampering by a Vietnamese was recorded in Cheb [west Bohemia] and it did not involve methanol,” says Marcel Winter of the Czech-Vietnamese Society.
The existing distrust between the Vietnamese community and the authorities is both a cause and effect of the community’s reticent nature, Pechová says.
“The Vietnamese are convinced the community can resolve its internal issues on its own more effectively than local law enforcement, without harming its reputation.”
Indeed, much of the community’s success in the Czech Republic can be attributed to the tight-knit collaboration of its members.
In a tiny, file-crammed office near the entrance of the SAPA market, established translator Binh Smržová describes how she assists her compatriots with a basic but seldom-discussed custom. When a member of the community dies, Buddhist tradition requires their remains be returned to the land of their ancestors. If the entire family of the deceased lives in Vietnam and lacks the funds for cremation and air transport, the locals step in to help.
Three years ago, when a migrant worker died at a local hospital after attempting to hang himself, Smržová arranged the cremation and brought the urn with her to Hanoi. “Our home in Vietnam is 150 kilometers from this family, but I could not bring the urn home with me because that would bring bad luck,” she says.
In the end, an acquaintance of the deceased man’s family met Smržová at the airport in Hanoi. The urn was placed in the family’s hands right on Dec. 31, narrowly meeting the traditional requirement that the remains be returned before the turn of the year.
“We became good friends after that,” Smržová recalls.
By Markéta Hulpachová and Tomáš Rákos, The Prague Post
Published on 26 September 2012