Category Archives: Migration Policy in Thailand

MOL: Laos to provide nationality identifying team

BANGKOK, 13 November 2014 (NNT) – The Ministry of Labour (MOL) has revealed that Thailand and Laos discussed mutual cooperation on the identification process of laborers’ nationality and employment, while seeking to update the MOU every five years.

According to the Minister of Labour Gen. Surasak Kanchanarat, the Minister and Laos Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Thailand have discussed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the employment and nationality identification today.

He said that both sides agreed to update the content of the MOU once every five years, to keep the MOU up to date. Officials from both countries will be working together to update this MOU with the deadline in October 2015, in time with the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

The Laos Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ly Bounkham said that Lao People’s Democratic Republic will be sending their officers to work with Thai officers to help identify the nationality of Laos workers in Thailand as soon as possible.

The nationality identification team will start from provinces with a larger population of Laos workers, then move towards provinces with less Laos workers. However, the Laos Ambassador is concerned that the entire process might be completed by 31 March 2015.

Minister of Labour has stressed that the Ministry is willing to provide assistance. There will be further discussions should the identification process is not completed within the time frame.

Currently, there are 212,562 registered Laos workers with 9,122 in Thailand as aides or followers. The cost for the nationality identification is 3,000 baht per person for both Thai and Laos authorities.

By: National News Bureau of Thailand

Ranong villagers trained to feed and ‘push on’ Rohingya boat people

Officials in Ranong have trained some 400 villagers to watch out for illegal Rohingya ‘boat people’ and told them to alert the authorities if they see anyone from the stateless ethnic group.
The move is part of a project called “Andaman Guard”. It aims to convince migrants travelling along the route from Myanmar to Thailand not to go ashore – by providing them food, medicine and fuel so they can continue to a third country.Ranong police captured 299 Rohingya – including 23 women and 13 children – in two round-ups this month, deputy provincial chief Pol Colonel Kritsak Sungmulnak said.

The first of 104 Rohingya arrests in Ranong was recorded to have occurred in 1998, with the number of illegal migrants entering the country rising each year.

They travel the 1255km from western Myanmar to Thailand on fishing boats when the sea is generally calmer between November and April. Thousands are said to have taken to boats in recent weeks. The journey typically takes about a fortnight.

By The Nation

Scholars urge more migrant protections, Bangkok Post

The government must do more to tackle abuses against migrant workers, academics say.

The situation has improved slightly since June, following moves by the National Council for Peace and Order to regulate migrant workers, said Narong Petprasert, an economist at Chulalongkorn University.

“Overall, there are fewer reports of illegal labour brokers and other forms of harmful interference, which makes for less labour extortion,” he said.

“But there is little hope the Labour Ministry will undertake any further steps in favour of migrant workers rights.”

He said all the widely known cases of abuse were made public by watchdogs and NGOs, not the ministry.

The fishing and sugar cane industries, in particular, were placed on several watch-lists for human trafficking and human rights violations and are subject to more attention than other sectors, he said.

“For the situation to improve, we should give migrant workers the opportunity to protect and defend their own rights, but I don’t see this happening any time soon in Thailand.”

“I don’t think Thai society is ready to allow it yet,” Mr Narong explained.

Lae Dilokwitthayarat, a labour expert at Chulalongkorn University, said the government is on the right track, but the labour, foreign and industry ministries should tackle the problems jointly.

“We have just started to realise how much the migrant workforce brings to the Thai economy,” Mr Lae said.

The government’s focus will be on boosting registration and developing more one-stop service centres to regulate migrant workers. He said negative feedback from abroad has sped up government support for migrant workers, particularly its crackdown on brokers who bring workers here through exorbitant fees or under false pretenses.

Registration would help migrant workers, he said. If brokers bribe state officials for work permits, the money they pay comes out of the workers’ wages. “If registration procedures become more accessible, there will be no need to bribe and the worker will get his full pay,” he said.

“The government must not simply list measures undertaken, but focus on presenting results instead,” Mr Lae said. He praised the government’s response to the US State Department’s downgrading of Thailand in its June Trafficking in Persons Report.

By Ariane Kupferman-Sutthavong
Published on 10 November 2014

Thailand to push back more than 200 boat people

More than 200 boat people held in southern Thailand will be pushed back out to sea, police said on Monday, despite calls by rights group to stop a policy that puts would-be asylum seekers at risk.

Around 259 people were found at sea on Saturday and were arrested for illegal entry.

Their discovery around 3 km (1.86 miles) from the coast follows what one NGO said was a “major maritime exodus” from neighboring Myanmar of Rohingya, a mostly stateless Muslim minority group from the country’s west.

“On average around 900 people left by boat from the middle of last month. We saw a major maritime exodus of nearly 10,000 people,” said Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group, adding that increasing desperation was one reason for the departures.

Authorities in Thailand’s Kapoe district said it was unclear whether any of the group were Rohingya but interviews with some of the group showed they were heading for Malaysia to find work or, in the women’s’ cases, join their husbands.

The 259 will be put back on boats and sent back to Myanmar, said Police Colonel Sanya Prakobphol, head of Kapoe district police.

“They are Muslims from Myanmar … They are illegal migrants,” Sanya told Reuters by telephone.

“If they come in then we must push them back … once they have crossed the sea border into Myanmar then that’s considered pushing them back. What they do next is their problem.”

Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state since 2012, when violent clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists killed hundreds and made about 140,000 homeless.

Many were Rohingya, who now often live in apartheid-like conditions and have little or no access to jobs, schools or healthcare.

The boats often sail from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand where, as Reuters reported last year, human trafficking-gangs hold thousands of boat people in brutal jungle camps until relatives pay ransoms to secure their release.

Testimonies from Bangladeshi and Rohingya survivors in an October Reuters Special Report provided evidence of a dramatic shift in human-trafficking tactics.

Sanya said the 259 people were currently being held at a community hall and that his team were “looking after them like relatives” but that they would soon be put back on boats.

“Who will feed them? I’m struggling day to day to feed them,” said Sanya.

“No country wants an outsider to come in to their house.”

Thailand was downgraded in June to the lowest category in the U.S. State Department’s annual ranking of the world’s worst human-trafficking centers, putting it in the same category as North Korea and the Central African Republic.

The same month, the Thai military vowed to “prevent and suppress human trafficking”, after having seized power from an elected government on May 22.

By: Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters

Published on: 10 November 2014


Boatpeople Vanish or Convert to Being Burmese in Thailand’s Human Trafficking Miracle

KAPER: The mystery of the disappearing boatpeople and a sudden, inexplicable change in ethnicity among would-be refugees is a puzzle of the kind that has often afflicted Thailand’s Andaman coast. It happened again yesterday.

Early in the morning, 299 boatpeople were arrested by the Army’s Internal Security Operations Command, working with local police in the province of Ranong. The Rohingya among the men, women and children totalled 219. The other 80 said they were from Bangladesh, according to officials.

By yesterday evening, the number being held in custody in a community hall in the township of Kaper had fallen to 252, with the other 47 boatpeople mysteriously disappearing. Nobody knew where they went. There appeared to be no great concern over the fate of the vanished boatpeople.

An even greater puzzle surrounded the declared ethnicities of the group. Within the space of a few hours, all those people who had previously said they were Rohingya or Bangladeshi were suddenly being recorded as Burmese.

This is not a miraculous conversion. Many times, boatpeople who land on the Andaman coast, north of the holiday island of Phuket, are declared to be Burmese, even though they can’t even speak the appropriate language. This makes deportation easy. No further questions are necessary.

Phuketwan unravelled a little of the mystery yesterday during a brief visit inside the Kaper community hall, where the boatpeople who had not vanished over the course of a few hours yesterday were being processed by officials.

Large numbers of Ranong police, the Army, the Navy and officers from the Department of Human Security and Social Welfare helped in processing the boatpeople. Anti-human trafficking police from Bangkok looked on, too.

Each of the boatpeople had his fingerprints taken, then he was photographed. A group of investigators at trestle tables asked each man for details: name, age, parents, nationality. While responses to the first three questions varied, the answer provided by each translator to ”nationalty” was the same: Burmese.

Just a few hours earlier, the ethnicities of these same people had been recorded as Rohingya and Bangladeshis. None of them were Burmese.

While the processing of the boatpeople in the Kaper community hall appeared to be efficient, it was certainly speedy. The questions took just a few seconds to answer.

As a result, all of the boatpeople will be treated as illegal immigrants, not human trafficking victims. Seven men arrested with the boatpeople will face court on charges relating to illegal migration, not as accused human traffickers.

Just 30 minutes’ drive south from Kaper, in the neighboring province of Phang Nga, these boatpeople would have been handled differently. They would have been exhaustively questioned by volunteers and activists to determine whether or not they were genuine human trafficking victims.

Tomorrow, three men arrested recently with large groups of boatpeople close to the township of Takuapa will face human trafficking and abuse charges in a local court.

Volunteers and activists, led by the district chief officer, have decided it’s time to end Thailand’s farcical system so that the boatpeople are saved from abuse, rapes and death in the secret traffickers’ camps of southern Thailand.

The difference in approach between what happens in Ranong and in Phang Nga is all down to lack of a budget to deal with human trafficking victims, Phuketwan was told several times yesterday.

And so there’s the Catch 22 for human trafficking in Thailand.

Until the government acknowledges that there’s a problem, there will be no budget to deal with possible human trafficking victims. And because there are at present no human trafficking victims, there is no problem, so there’s no need for a budget.

The Muslims, Buddhist and Christian activists in Phang Nga who are now boldly defying the system represent Thailand’s chance to deal with the issue truthfully, even if it comes at a financial cost.

Thailand’s international reputation hinges on what happens in the two provinces north of Phuket over the next few days and weeks.

By Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, PhuketWan

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