Category Archives: Migration Policy in Thailand

New work permit rules make for an uncertain May Day for migrant workers

A migrant worker from Myanmar’s Mon state works under the hot sun at squid processing plant at Samut Songkram for a salary that is twice as much as she can earn in her home country.

WORKING IN Thailand is becoming harder and more expensive for unskilled migrant workers from neighbouring countries after the government imposed tougher policies addressing illegal immigration.

Residing in the Kingdom for more than 12 years, 28-year-old Ei Dhan Dar from Myamar has already adapted to Thai society and can speak the language fluently.

But despite her integration into society, she said she felt increasingly uncertain about her future in Thailand, since tough new regulations to register for work permits were issued, which entail a difficult and expensive process.

“Recently, I had to spend nearly Bt10,000 for the work permit registration fee and other related costs just to make my status legal, but I only earn Bt300 salary per day. It’s like we work hard to pay Thai bureaucrats and we are getting poorer in Thailand,” she said.

“As I’ve lived in this country for a long time, I now feel that I have a bond with Thailand and I always hope that one day I can live comfortably in this country, but now I am not sure about this dream.”

Ei Dhan Dar is just one among hundreds of thousand migrant workers who have struggled to legalise their work status.

Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation coordinator Surachai Mintun said his organisation had received many calls for help from migrant workers across the country, who had problems with the recent migrant worker registration, including some who were facing deportation.

“There are so many workers having problems with the registration because the regulation is unclear, specifies too short a period to register for a work permit, and lacks information for applicants,” Surachai said.

According to the rule implemented this year, migrant workers who hold temporary pink identification cards have to register certificates of identity to get a passport and Thai visa, and then they have to register for a work permit within 15 days. If they fail to register within that period, their status will be illegal and they will be |subject to deportation.

The government cancelled its recognition of the temporary pink identification cards for migrant workers nationwide on March 31, requiring migrant workers to hold valid visas and work permits. There were an estimated 1.3 million migrant workers holding the temporary pink identification cards.

As a result of the rule, Surachai said migrant workers faced two major issues. First, many workers were unable to register for the work permit in time for various reasons, so even if they were |legally registered with authorities and holding a Thai visa, they |suddenly risked arrest and faced deportation.

The second problem is the cost of registration. Although the official cost was only Bt910, Surachai said, many workers had to employ an agent because the entire process was complicated and slow, which could cost as much as Bt10,000.

“It is very hard for workers to register by themselves because many of them cannot communicate in Thai and have limited knowledge about the bureaucratic procedures, so registering through an agent is the easiest way, but there is an extra financial burden,” he said.

The tough new regulations are justified as an effort to tackle human trafficking and illegal migrant workers by the Labour Ministry.

Labour Ministry deputy permanent secretary Varanon Peetiwan has said the government wants to control the entire migrant labour system, meaning that all migrant workers should be brought to Thailand under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) system only.

Sakultara Bhupornwiwat, owner of a Samut Songkram squid processing factory, said she would like the government to reconsider the policy, because the MOU system was unreliable and unsuitable in practice.

“If I want to import workers via the MOU system, I have to pay a large amount of money first before the agent will recruit workers for me and there is no guarantee that I’ll get the workers. The business cannot rely on that,” Sakultara said.

“Moreover, the workers in the MOU system have to pay more than Bt10,000 in their home countries just to apply to work in Thailand. They cannot afford such an expensive fee. If they could pay that amount of money, why would they want to work in unskilled jobs in Thailand in the first place?”

She said that if the situation remained unchanged under the new policy, there would be a serious shortage of workers in the near future, which would harm not only her business but the country’s economy as a whole.

By: Pratch Rujivanrom, Bangkok Post

Published on: 1 May 2017

Migrant Rights Activist: Booming Thai Border Town ‘Built on Burmese Sweat’

MAE SOT, Thailand — Mae Sot, a border town in western Thailand, has changed starkly in the past few years. Once quiet, the town now has shopping malls, hotels, an airport, a new bridge, and construction projects widening its main road.

The graft of Burmese labor workers contributes greatly to the town’s development. U Moe Joe, a longtime Burmese migrant rights activist and the chairman of Mae Sot-based Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA), has been supporting Burmese workers in the town for 14 years.

Senior reporter Saw Yan Naing interviews U Moe Joe about his views on the growth of Mae Sot and its consequences for migrant workers.

How do you see the expansion of Mae Sot?

There are huge expansion projects in Mae Sot, including an airport, shopping malls, supermarkets, government offices, buildings, and a hospital. These all benefit the Thai people, but many Burmese migrant workers who work in construction don’t receive proper wages.

Many workers on Robinson [a shopping mall named for its primary department store] still haven’t received their wages and we heard that migrants who helped construct the airport didn’t get full wages. The workers were supposed to be paid 300 Thai baht (US$8.5) a day but some received 160-250 baht ($4.5-7.2). There’s still exploitation—it’s one of the results of expansion in Mae Sot, but Burmese migrant workers should also benefit. Every construction project has problems paying the migrant workers.

Have you noticed many Burmese migrant workers returning home now that their country is opening?

Some Burmese workers are going back to live in Burma now the NLD [National League for Democracy] has come to power, but we don’t know the official figure. Some permanently move back and others go back and forth. Garment factory workers, who do well back in Burma, often go back but it doesn’t work out so well for those in construction and agriculture. They come to Thailand after they don’t find work in Burma.

Numbers of Burmese people still come to Thailand for work but we don’t have the statistics because many of them cross into Thailand illegally. Migrant workers visiting their homes have brought back friends in the past but we don’t see that now. The number of newcomers is decreasing.

What about the abuse and exploitation of Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot compared to the past? 

Employers used to solve their problems with employees in a criminal way and the migrant workers always lost, but now the Thai government is working on upgrading standards, especially for child workers and forced laborers.

The government fines employers but in no case has the employer been jailed. It’s common for employees to be jailed, so there are many things that need improving. Guilty employers should also been jailed yet, for now, they pay the fine and are free.

Why do Burmese people still go to work in Thailand? 

There are still problems with the wages in Burma, although it’s improving under the new civilian government compared to the previous regime. Workers in Burma do not get paid the same rate as those in Thailand, which is why they still come.

When did Mae Sot begin to expand? 

Mae Sot is a town in Tak Province where all the government offices are based. It has a lot of factories—180 registered factories by our estimate. So migrant workers go to Mae Sot. Within the last five years, government offices, departments, privately owned buildings and hotels have sprung up. All the construction on those buildings was built with the labor of Burmese migrant workers. They work in the heat. They built them with their sweat.

By:  Saw Yan Nain, Irrawaddy News

Published on: 1 May 2017

Myanmar worker compensated for loss of hand

A Myanmar migrant worker at a spindle factory in the Mahar Chaing district in Thailand was compensated 486,759 baht (about K18.6 million) last week for the loss of one of his hands in March, according to Aid Alliance Committee (AAC), a Thai-based migrant affairs society.

Ko Aung Myint Thein lost his right hand at an accident at the spindle factory, where he has been working since March 2017. Photo - Supplied (AAC)Ko Aung Myint Thein lost his right hand at an accident at the spindle factory, where he has been working since March 2017. Photo – Supplied (AAC)

“The migrants have paid for life insurance and social welfare security fees to the government each month. So, the Thai government must take responsibility for workers who have accidents.

“We managed to get a suitable compensation from the Thai government quickly after asking them for a while,” AAC’s member Ko Ye Min told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

The migrant worker Ko Aung Myint Thein from Mon State in Myanmar, lost his right hand at an accident at the spindle factory, where he has been working since March 2017.

He was compensated within 40 days after the accident, according to AAC.

According to Thai laws, workers and employers have to pay 5 percent of the workers’ monthly salaries for life insurance and social welfare security fees, while the government pays 2.5pc for each worker.

Workers who fall sick, have an accident, or die while giving birth, will be compensated with a suitable amount by the government.

“Even workers who have no documents have labour rights. It is not a matter of whether the workers have legal documents or not. Every employer must take responsibility for the workers,” said Ko Ye Min.

He added that most employees in Thailand are afraid of violating the labour rights and laws because rules and regulations are very strong in Thailand, and there are many strong labour organisations.

Action Labour Right’s member Ko Sai Yu Maung told The Myanmar Times that although there are social welfare security laws in Myanmar, workers who died or were involved in accidents face difficulties in being compensated and in being provided with social welfare allowances by the government.

“A family had to be satisfied with compensation of K1.7 million for losing their son at a construction site since they were not sure if they would be compensated with suitable fees by the government,” said Ko Sai Yu Maung.

He also said that a female worker who lost two fingers had to settle with the K1.3 million, and one of factory workers who lost his fingers eight months ago has still not been compensated until now.


By: Zaw Zaw Htwe, Myanmar Times

Published on: 11 April 2017

Canny Cambodians get free rides home (Thailand)

Returnees include workers with and without legal documents. (Supplied photo via the Khmer Times)

PHNOM PENH – The number of “undocumented” Cambodian workers being deported from Thailand through border checkpoints has doubled due to the approaching Khmer New Year, an official said Tuesday.

But many were actually legal workers taking advantage of the free transport provided for deportees.

Sem Makara, the deputy chief of the border police station at Poipet, said there was no crackdown at the moment on undocumented Cambodian workers in Thailand, the Khmer Times reported.

“However, for a few days we have seen more than the normal number of migrant workers being deported back to Cambodia. It’s due to the coming Khmer New Year,” he said.

Between 500 and 600 Cambodian workers were reportedly sent back over the previous three days, Mr Makara said. On average, 100 to 200 were deported each day for not having the proper documents to work and stay, he said.

He said those being deported home were both illegal and legal workers.

“Legal workers sometimes hide their passports or travel documents from Thai authorities so they are sent back home immediately and get transport free of charge.”

Almost a half the deportees were actually legal workers. “They are straight away sent home without any further delay,” Mr Makara said.

Earlier this year, Cambodia set out ways that thousands of undocumented workers in Thailand can get legal status through the embassy there to find work or stay in a job.

For many Cambodians it ends a grey area in which they were issued with what are known as pink cards by the Thais. The cards give them migrant worker status, but do not allow them to get jobs legally.

Cambodian deportees at the border. (Supplied photo via the Khmer Times)


By: Khmer Times, Bangkok Post

Published on: 5 April 2017

Migrant workers heading home for water festival

Myanmar workers arrive at Mae Sot border checkpoint early in the morning, preparing to cross the border to return home. (Bangkok Post photo)


Workers from neighbouring countries began an exodus home for the lunar new year festival on Wednesday, happy the cabinet had exempted them from exit and re-entry fees until April 30.

Labour Minister Sirichai Distakul said the water festival, celebrated as Songkran in Thailand, was a cultural event common to other Asean member countries, particularly Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

So the government had decided to allow migrant workers to go home for the occasion without the burden of having to pay extra fees, beginning April 5.

They were required to return and report to work by April 30 or they would lose their work permits. Last year, about 8,000 Cambodians were stranded at border checkpoints becaused they returned after the deadline, he said.

Waranon Pitiwan, director-general of the Employment Department, said there are two categories of workers.

In the first category are workers holding pink cards issued for non-Thai nationals and family members aged below 18 years. The cards expire on either Nov 30 or March 31 next year. They must return by April 30  or they would not be allowed to re-enter the country.

They must obtain a letter of permission to go home for the festival from an Employment Department office in the province where they work. They must show the letter to immigration officials and be stamped out and back in at the border.  They must return via their point of departure.

In the second category are workers holding a certificate of identity (CI) or a passport.  They are not required to apply for the letter of permission from the Employment Department.  They can show only their CI or passport to immigration officials. If they want to return after April 30, they must apply for re-entry and pay a 1,000 baht fee before leaving the country, otherwise they would not be allowed to re-enter.

Workers in both categories are exempted from departure and re-entry fees  for the period April 5 – 30.

Mr Waranon said during this period there will be no registration of migrant workers who entered the country illegally.  All workers allowed dispensation to go home for the festival must have been properly registered and have documents issued by the Labour Department.

In Tak province, Myanmar workers flocked to the immigration office in Mae Sot to get their documents stamped before going home across the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge on Wednesday morning.

Pol Col Somchai Detphae, the Mae Sot immigration chief, said all 16 channels were opened to expedite the process.

Many vehicles were seen on the other side of the bridge, waiting to take returning workers to their hometowns.

Maung Mo, 28, from Pa-an in Myanmar, who works at an instant noodle factory in Nakhon Pathom, said he was glad the government had waived the fees, which would save him money.  He intended to return to work on time after the water festival.


By: Penchan Charoensuthipan, Bangkok Post

Published on: 6 April 2017

Back to Top