Category Archives: Myanmar

Korea needs a Thai fix

South Korea is a popular destination for Thai tourists, the same way that Thailand is for South Koreans. Unfortunately, the tourism relationship between the countries has been damaged by the continuing influx of Thai visitors who end up being overstayers and illegal workers in South Korea.

To solve the problem at its root, South Korea needs to consider a new approach by looking south to see how Thailand tackled a similar problem of a larger size — the huge numbers of illegal migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

Last year, about 26,400 Thais were denied entry at South Korean airports. During the first quarter of this year alone, as many as 10,000 Thai travellers couldn’t get through the immigration gates due to tougher measures applied by South Korea.

Last month, Thai and Korean officials met in Seoul to discuss the issue. They came up with a plan to screen Thai travellers. South Korean authorities will adopt an Electronic Travel Authorisation, an entry requirement system for visa-exempt foreign nationals, for Thai visitors. This is a fresh attempt among several measures introduced in past years which failed to solve the problem.

Illegal Thai workers enter South Korea as tourists travelling in tour groups. Once they enter the country, they disappear from the tour groups. Most of them end up working in farms. Many women find work as masseurs and bar attendants. Many are forced into sex work.

Earlier, the South Korean government offered a six-month grace period for illegal Thai overstayers to report themselves to authorities by March this year. If reported, they will be deported to Thailand without being charged and blacklisted from returning to South Korea. However, only about 15,200 illegal Thai workers, or 10.7% of the estimated number of 143,000, reported themselves to authorities. As a result, Korean immigration has recently tightened the screening of Thai visitors.

The flow of Thai workers flocking into South Korea is mainly driven by the lure of a higher income. They are paid as high as 50,000 baht or more a month in South Korea. In Thailand, the monthly minimum wage is about 9,000 baht.

The shortage of unskilled workers in South Korea has also boosted demand for both legal and illegal migrant workers. Employers can also save costs by paying illegal workers at rates less than the standard wages.

The situation is similar to Thailand’s. The Thai business sector’s demand for unskilled workers here has attracted a large number of illegal workers from neighbouring countries. In the past, officials used to turn a blind eye to the problem and let illegal migrant workers stay to drive the economy. But poor working and living conditions of the workers put Thailand under pressure of criticism over human rights violations.

In 2017, the government decided to register more than 770,000 illegal migrant workers and then allow them to work legally.

This is a win-win solution. Thailand secures an adequate workforce to drive the economy while neighbouring countries gain benefits as a large number of their people send money back home.

South Korea should consider adopting the Thai solution by proceeding with registering and legalising about 360,000 illegal migrant workers there. This policy can be implemented along with other stringent measures such as efforts to counter human trafficking.

This approach would help tighten the relationship between Thailand and South Korea and boost tourism between the two countries.


Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 20 May 2019

Thais arrest 100 undocumented Myanmar workers

About 100 undocumented Myanmar workers were arrested in a raid by Thai officials near the Myanmar-Thai border in Mae Sot, Tak province, on Thursday, officials and civil society groups said. 

A team of Thai immigration, police, army and Department of Employment officials conducted the early morning raid in an area known to have many Myanmar nationals working illegally.

“They didn’t have proper documents, so they were arrested and deported,” migrant rights volunteer Ko Saw Lin Aung said. “They will be banned from re-entering Thailand for up to two years, according to Thai immigration law.”

He said the Thai authorities released hundreds of workers who had the proper documents.

Ko Saw Lin Aung, who is also founder of the Labour Hittai news portal, said his group provides information to Myanmar migrants in the kingdom.

Many Myanmar nationals work illegally in Mae Sot by crossing the river from Myawady township in Kayin State, Ko Saw Lin Aung said.

Up to 18,000 Myanmar workers enter the kingdom monthly at Mae Sot from Myawady under an agreement between the two countries, according to Myanmar’s Labour Ministry.

Hundreds of Myanmar workers are deported by Thai immigration authorities to Myanmar every day through the Mae Sot checkpoint, according to Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs.

[Thailand] Fisheries body wants work permit clarity

The National Fisheries Association of Thailand is calling for a clearer policy regarding the renewal of work permits for Myanmar, Cambodian and Lao migrant workers whose work permits are due to expire between this year and next year.

About 20,000 of these workers will have to renew their work permits before they expire on November 1; another 10,900 will have to do the same before their permits expire on March 31 next year; and the other 6,600 will do the same before their permits expire on Sept 30 next year, said Sarawut Thowasakun, vice-president of the association.

If these workers fail to have their work permits renewed in time, the fishing trawlers they are working for won’t be able to go out to sea as this is prohibited under the government’s fishing trawler monitoring port in-port out (PIPO) system, he said.

The system is being introduced to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

While the fate of the first two groups remains uncertain as to how and when the work permit renewal process will be carried out, only the third group is likely to automatically receive a one-year renewal, he said.

“What is worrying us is that the work permit renewal for the first and second groups will affect nearly 31,000 workers. If their work permits expire without renewal, they will all have to go back to their home countries,” he said.

“A large number of fishing boats will be seriously affected,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Employment and Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour met in Phuket recently to discuss Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand.

Possible measures for dealing with Myanmar workers whose permits are scheduled to expire on March 31 next year were also discussed at the meeting in detail.

At the end of the discussion, both sides agreed to cooperate in an effort to better regulate and protect Myanmar migrant workers.

Written by Penchan Charoensuthipan
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 16 May 2019

[Myanmar] Govt, UN agency launch plan to protect migrants

Myanmar and the International Organization for Migration have launched a second five-year national plan of action on international migration aimed at giving Myanmar migrants access to opportunities and work in other countries.

“We will work closely with government departments, non-governmental organisations and other institutions to raise public awareness about workers’ rights before people leave for jobs overseas,” Labour Minister U Thein Swe said at the launch of the plan on Saturday.

The goal of the second five-year plan through 2022 is to meet national development goals by reducing poverty and relieving pressure on local labour markets.

The plan also aims to identify strategies to secure jobs abroad and improve training for workers.

It aims to provide Myanmar workers with realistic options to work abroad, through a decent work agenda that ensures safe and productive employment opportunities for Myanmar people.

‘’We hope to support our workers by ensuring they are employed in decent jobs in Southeast Asia and other regions,” U Thein Swe said in his speech.

Akio Nakyama, chief of mission of IOM Myanmar, said at the ceremony that the migration rate in Myanmar is high, with one out of four people in the country going abroad to seek better lives through jobs or higher education.

According to the 2014 Myanmar census, as many as a quarter of the country’s people are migrants, including an estimated 9.39 million internal migrants and 4.25 million from abroad.

The plan of action on migration aims to protect and upgrade the abilities of Myanmar migrant workers, to increase the development results of migration, and to administer and control labour migration.

Written by Zaw Zaw Htwe
Source: Myanmar Times
Published on 14 May 2019

[Myanmar] Employment agencies urge break for workers on Thai fee

The Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation is urging the Labour Ministry to make it easier for migrant workers to pay the 3600-baht (K174,000) processing fee charged by the Thai government.

The fee covers a work permit, health insurance, medical check-up and visa.

Myanmar nationals who want to work in Thailand under an agreement between the two countries have to pay K150,000 to the employment agency and 3600 baht to Thailand.

U Myat Thu, a federation executive, said that might be too much because workers usually have to borrow money to pay the fees.

He urged the ministry to discuss the possibility of paying the Thai fee in instalments with its Thai counterpart.

“We have urged the labour minister to ask about doing away with the 3600-baht fee because our workers have to pay a lot,” he said.

According to the agreement between the countries, Myanmar employment agencies can only charge workers K150,000 each.

Prior to the agreement, some Thai employers and agencies deducted as much as 10,000 baht from each worker’s pay.

“We want to make it easier for our workers to go to Thailand without paying a lot,” said U Myat Thu.

Labour Minister U Thein Swe told the federation that his office will discuss the possibility of spreading out payment of the 3600 baht with the Thai Labour Department on Sunday.

‘’We have been trying to set up a no-cost system for our workers,” U Thein Swe said.

On May 5, the Migrant Workers Rights Network said that Myanmar workers are being charged up to 20,000 baht in fees by dishonest employers, brokers and interpreters.

It called on workers who have been charged more than the 3600-baht processing fee to file complaints.

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