Category Archives: Migration Policy in Thailand

Call for Thailand and Cambodia to address migration

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Thai and Cambodian governments need to reform migration policies to prevent a repeat of June’s exodus that saw up to 300,000 Cambodians leave Thailand, migrant groups said Tuesday.

Workers from neighboring Cambodia fled Thailand following the May 22 military coup amid widespread rumors that the army and police were planning a crack down on illegal workers.

The rumors were fuelled by comments from an army spokesman who said illegal laborers were a threat to Thailand and threatened to deport anyone without papers.

The subsequent flood of people crossing the border into Cambodia was “one of the biggest movements of people since the 1970s in Southeast Asia,” Reiko Harima, regional coordinator of the Mekong Migration Network, said.

Harima was speaking at the launch of a report, “The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand,” by the network, an umbrella group of regional NGOs.

Pok Panhavichetr, executive director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, said interviews with 67 returned workers highlighted concerns about the cost of legal migration.

“Many migrants are receiving below the minimum wage,” she said. “The report introduces recommendations addressing the Thai and Cambodian governments, as well as the wider ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community, to learn from this experience and develop a more sustainable migration policy.”

Approximately 80 percent of Cambodian workers in Thailand are undocumented, according to Suong Sopheap, a program manager for the network based in the border city of Poipet.

A large demand for unskilled labor in Thailand and a lack of jobs and low pay in Cambodia fuel the westward migration of Cambodians, the vast majority of whom work on construction sites or in factories.

The report found “most migrants do not wish to abide by the law and obtain legal status in Thailand” because “many are currently finding the existing formal migration channels too expensive or inaccessible.”

The Cambodian government recently announced a reduction in the cost of passports for migrant workers from the equivalent of $124 to $4.

By Lauren Crothers
Published on 9 December 2014

Fishy plan for inmates under fire. Low-risk prisoners to work on boats.

Activists have poured scorn on a plan to put low-risk prisoners to work on fishing trawlers in a bid to ease overcrowding in jails.

Surapong Kongchanthuek, a human rights lawyer attached to the Lawyers Council of Thailand, said he backs work programmes for prisoners, but warned jobs on fishing trawlers are “not a good idea”.

The government plan is an attempt to ease prison overcrowding and improve the fishing industry, notorious for using trafficked workers.

“Even though participation in the programme is voluntary, I don’t think prisoners have real choices — when they have to choose between jail or work on a fishing boat,” he said.

Mr Surapong said sending prisoners to sea will not help prepare them for release, claiming inmates should be given training inside a closed facility such as a factory.

“By obtaining work experience in a factory, they would acquire skills and have a chance to adapt to the outside environment before their release,” he said.

Action Network for Migrants representative Sathian Thanprom said the policy raises questions over occupational risks and how inmates would be monitored after they ship out. He argued that using electronic monitoring devices to track inmates would do more harm than good.

“If they have to wear something to show their ‘inmate’ status, I don’t think they will be interested. It’s better for them to wait until they leave prison, so they can work without anyone knowing they are ex-convicts,” he said.

Justice permanent secretary Chatchawal Sumsomjit said the government is ready to roll out the programme, which has been backed by Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya and Labour Minister Surasak Karnjanarat. He said that participation in the programme will be voluntary, adding inmates can seek other jobs if they don’t want to work on fishing boats.

Pol Gen Chatchawal said the project has the potential to help solve prison overcrowding while also eliminating the problem of forced labour and human trafficking in the fishing sector.

Thailand has 143 prisons holding 320,000 people across the country.

Corrections Department director-general Witthaya Suriyawong said he has discussed the scheme with the Fishing Trawlers Association and received positive feedback.

He said the department has also approached the industrial sector for cooperation on other work programmes for prisoners.

Amata Industrial Estate in Chon Buri is the first to agree to hire prisoners and pay them wages, he said, adding that inmate workers will have the opportunity to develop vital skills before they are deleased.


Phubet Chanthanimi, chairman of the Fishing Association of Thailand, said he and others in the fishing industry are willing to support the work programme for inmates.

“It is something we should support. We give migrant workers with no papers or identification the chance to work. The inmates deserve it too,” he said.

He claimed working conditions on fishing trawlers are not as bad as most people believe, saying that fishing operators have strict rules they must abide to.

Commenting on wider efforts to tackle prison overcrowding, Mr Witthaya said the justice minister has a plan to separate “big-time” drug offenders from “small-time” dealers.

The Office of Narcotics Control Board has been asked to make a list of major drug traffickers and low-level dealers so the department can sort the offenders, he said.

Of all 320,000 prisoners nationwide, 70% or 200,000 are locked up on drug-related charges. Of these, 100,000 are users or small-time dealers.

Pol Gen Chatchawal said the Justice Ministry has spent 74 million baht on 3,000 tracking bracelets for use in 22 provinces.
The electronic monitoring tags will enable authorities to track offenders using GPS technology. Pol Gen Chatchawal said judges will be allowed to decide whether offenders can be released from prison early if they wear the electronic tags.

By: King-Oua Laohong and Penchan Charoensuthipan, The Bangkok Post

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

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