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Lao workers may get extension for nationality check

THAILAND and Laos have agreed in principle to extend the timeframe in verifying the nationality of Lao workers now in Thailand, according to a report by the Vientiane Times.
It is estimated that nearly 2 million migrant workers, mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, are in Thailand.

The newspaper quoted the head of office of the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry, Khamkhane Phinsavanh, as saying Laos was unlikely to complete nationality verification for all Lao workers in Thailand by the end of March under the original deadline.

As a result, authorities from both countries had agreed in principle to extend the timeframe. He said a team of Lao officials arrived in Thailand last week to carry out verification.

Cambodia and Myanmar began working with Thai authorities on the process earlier this month. As of January 6, the nationality of nearly 36,000 Cambodians and 65 Myanmar citizens had been verified. However, none of the registered Lao workers had yet had their nationality verified.

Khamkhane said officials in charge needed time to prepare for the procedures.

Deputy director-general of the Skill Development and Employment Department under the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Dr Bounma Sitthisom, said it could take more than six months to verify the nationality of all Lao workers in Thailand and legalise them.

Nationality identification is part of the process to legalise the status of Lao workers in Thailand. All required documents will be processed in Thailand so workers do not have to return to Laos to obtain them.

According to a memorandum of understanding on labour cooperation between Laos and Thailand, a Lao worker with legal documents can work in Thailand for two years, with the option to extend for another two years.

After reaching the four-year limit, the worker must return to Laos and work in his or her home country for three years before returning to Thailand to work.

By: The Nation
Published on: 13 January 2015

Legalisation of Lao workers in Thailand begins

A team of Lao officials has arrived Thailand to verify the nationality of Lao workers there, according to a senior government official.

More than 200,000 Lao workers and about 9,000 family members have been registered across Thailand, Thai media reported recently.

Head of Office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Khamkhane Phinsavanh, told the Vientiane Times on Friday that Lao officials travelled to Thailand last week to carry out the verification process.

National News Bureau (NNB) of Thailand reported on Thursday that Lao officials had begun the verification process that day.

Four nationality verification centres have been set up in Samut Prakan, Chiang Rai, Tak and Ranong provinces to verify the nationalities of workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, according to NNB.

Cambodia and Myanmar began working with Thai authorities on the verification process earlier this month. As of January 6, the nationality of nearly 36,000 Cambodians and 65 Myanmar citizens had been verified. However, none of the registered Lao workers have yet had their nationality verified.

Mr Khamkhane said officials in charge needed time to prepare for the procedures, meaning Laos began the work at a later date than Cambodia and Myanmar.

Given that Laos is unlikely to complete nationality verification for all Lao workers in Thailand by the end of March under the original deadline, Mr Khamkhane said authorities from both countries had agreed in principle to extend the timeframe.

Deputy Director General of the Skill Development and Employment Department under the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Dr Bounma Sitthisom, said previously it could take more than six months to verify the nationality of and legalise all Lao workers in Thailand.

Lao officials are carrying out the work at a centre in Samut Prakan province. Laos is also planning to dispatch mobile teams to reach out to all Lao workers across Thailand, NNB reported.

Nationality identification is part of the process to legalise the status of Lao workers in Thailand. All of the required documents will be processed in Thailand so workers do not have to return to Laos to obtain these documents.

According to a memorandum of understanding on labour cooperation between Laos and Thailand, a Lao worker with legal documents can work in Thailand for two years, with the option to extend for another two years.

After reaching the four year limit, the worker must return to Laos and work in his or her home country for three years before returning to Thailand to work.

By: Souksakhone Vaenkeo, Vientiane Times

Published on: 12 January 2015

As Lawmakers Raise Pay, Minimum Wage Law Languishes

Government efforts to conduct a survey on laborers’ socioeconomic conditions and set a daily minimum wage have been delayed for more than a year and a half, even as salaries for lawmakers and civil servants are once again due to increase.
Parliament passed a Minimum Wage Law in March 2013 and the Ministry of Labor said in January that it would set the minimum wage by year’s end, pending data collection covering current wages, the size of the workforce, laborers’ living standards and their families.

But a labor alliance, the Myanmar Trade Union Federation (MTUF), said the law and related bylaws have not been implemented because the workers’ survey is not yet completed.

Aung Lin, the MTUF chairperson and member of a national committee tasked with determining the minimum wage, told The Irrawaddy that “it is because of delays by the [Labor] Ministry.”

The MTUF conducted its own survey in pilot areas in July 2013, the results of which were shared with the national minimum wage committee. It suggested the daily minimum wage be set at 7,000 kyats (US$7) for a household of three people, according to Aung Lin, who added that the Labor Ministry disregarded the findings.

The majority of Burma’s 51 million people are either wage laborers or farmers who reside in rural areas.

Workers at several factories in industrial zones have held wage-related strikes in recent years, facing a job market where a general laborer earns about 60,000 kyats per month while a skilled laborer earns about 150,000 kyats per month.

“The standard minimum wage should be implemented as soon as possible to reduce the workers’ survival problems,” said Mar Mar Oo, the deputy team leader of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, who added that an additional impending burden on workers would be rising commodity prices expected as a result of a hike of civil servants’ salaries.

Amid the delay in setting a minimum wage, lawmakers last week authorized a salary raise for themselves, as well as for civil servants and soldiers.

Parliament on Nov. 12 approved a motion to implement salary increases for civil servants, soldiers and lawmakers in the next fiscal year, which begins in April 2015. According to the Ministry of National Planning & Economic Development, more than one million people in Burma work as civil servants. The motion included provisions on setting minimum wage bylaws and the implementation of protections for the country’s farmers, but there have been no new developments on these labor issues since then.

A Union-level lawmaker receives a salary of 300,000 kyats per month, and a per diem of 10,000 kyats while they are attending sessions of Parliament. Divisional and state-level parliamentarians earn less, at 200,000 kyats per month.

On Tuesday, the Lower House agreed to a range of salary increases, stipulating that the 2015-16 pay rise would put salaries at 1 million to 1.6 million kyats for each Union-level lawmaker and 500,000 to 1 million kyats for each state and divisional lawmaker.

Parliamentarians this week defended the proposed pay rise.

“Our effort for the salary increases is not solely for us—our successors would have much benefit from that,” said Ye Htun, an ethnic Shan lawmaker who passed blame on the delay to the minimum wage’s implementation.

“We can only make laws, and the respective ministries then implement it. Now the salary issues have been agreed to, but the exact amount on the raise is the executive’s decision.”

The current Parliament’s term expires in March 2016, following national elections slated for late 2015.

Ba Shein, an Arakanese lawmaker, said the agreed salary boost would help parliamentarians to focus on their work. While some sitting members of Parliament are wealthy, others struggle to afford even basic things like their children’s school fees, he said.

“How can we work if we cannot support our families?” Ba Shein said.

The amount of each salary increase is yet to be determined by relevant ministries of President Thein Sein’s administration. The president has two weeks to review and sign into law any proposal passed by Parliament, and can also send it back to the legislature with suggested changes.

By Nyein Nyein, The Irrawaddy

DOE rushes to register excess migrant workers

The Department of Employment (DOE) says it will need two weeks to complete
the registration of 22,000 more migrant workers who could not be registered
in time for the October 31 deadline.

According to Mr Pichit Nilthongkham, Director of the Office of Foreign
Workers Administration of the DOE, a total of 1.56 million immigrants from
Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia applied for work permits during the registration
period between June 26 and October 31. However, on the final day, employers
reportedly brought in an unusually large number of workers for
registration, causing a backlog of applications.

As a consequence, the officials were unable to serve over 22,000 applicants
and had to arrange appointments with them for later dates. Most of these
applicants are residing within Bangkok. Mr Pichit expects that they will be
gradually called in to initiate the procedure within two weeks’ time.

Following the registration, the Director said the DOE will coordinate with
the neighboring countries in the nationality verification process until
March 31 next year, after which the one-year work permits will be issued
for qualified registrants.

From now on, any employers found to be hiring illegal migrant workers will
be subject to a fine of 10,000-100,000 baht per head while each worker will
face a fine of 2,000-100,000 baht or a jail term of up to five years or
both.

By: National News Bureau of Thailand

Burmese Migrants Report Police Beatings During Murder Investigation on Koh Tao

People wait in line as Thai police collect data as part of their investigation into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao. (Photo: Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom)

People wait in line as Thai police collect data as part of their investigation into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao. (Photo: Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom)

 

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — At least two Burmese migrant workers were beaten by Thai police during their investigation into the murder of two British tourists on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao, one of the alleged victims has claimed.

Si Thu, a Burmese migrant who was interrogated by police on Sept. 19, told The Irrawaddy, “While I was answering [the questions of police], a Thai policeman showed a photo to another detainee called Lin Lin and asked if it was his photo. He answered no and the policeman kneed him in the back, saying he was lying.

“Then, the police asked him if he killed those tourists. When Lin Lin answered that he didn’t, the same policeman hit him again,” said Si Thu, who added that he himself was hit over the head when the police took him from his home on Sept. 19, but was not beaten while under interrogation at the police station.

Two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were murdered in the early hours of Sept. 15. Despite several leads and potential suspects, mystery remains over the identity of their killer or killers.

According to Thai news agencies, scores of Burmese migrants working on the island were interrogated and had their photos taken along with DNA samples. On Monday, Thailand’s Deputy Police Chief Pol-Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang said that the DNA test results of 30 Burmese migrant workers did not match DNA connected to the murders.

Up to 1,000 Burmese migrants work at restaurants, hotels and construction sites on the island and most of them do not have visas or work permits, Soe Min Htet, who has been working on the island for more than four years, told The Irrawaddy. Burmese migrants are so concerned that they are even scared of going to work following the police interrogations, he said.

“We feel like we are not safe as there are no people to help us. Here, our citizens are vulnerable to unfair treatment and are always looked down upon,” he said. “Because the victims are British, the police are taking it seriously. If our citizens die, no one cares.”

Burma’s Ambassador to Thailand Win Maung said the embassy was keeping a close eye on the treatment of Burmese migrant workers by Thai police on Koh Tao. He said that the Burmese Embassy had contacted the Surat Thani Province police force chief and was continuously reporting developments in the murder investigation to Naypyidaw. “We can’t intervene in their legal interrogation. But if there was any overstepping of boundaries, we would raise an objection with the Thai authorities,” said Win Maung.

Htoo Chit, executive director of the Thailand-based migrant rights group Foundation for Education and Development, said the Burmese government should work together with their Thai counterparts to legally protect Burmese migrant workers. He said Burmese migrants were bullied in Thailand because the Burmese government did not pay enough attention to its citizens. “It has become a custom that Burmese citizens are unfairly detained and beaten if something bad happens in Thailand,” Htoo Chit said.

 

By: Kyaw Kha, The Irawaddy

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