Yearly Archives: 2012

Four jailed for Myanmar migrant deaths, Bangkok Post

Four people smugglers were sentenced to up to 10 years in prison by a Thai court after 54 illegal workers from Myanmar suffocated to death inside a seafood container, an official said on Friday.The 2008 incident was the deadliest in a wave of tragedies afflicting migrants making perilous journeys from impoverished Myanmar in search of work in neighbouring Thailand, where they often end up exploited and abused.

The victims were among 121 people crammed into the six metres (20 feet) by 2.2 metres container with a broken ventilation system for the journey to the resort island of Phuket to work as day labourers.

Four Thais were convicted on Thursday of gross negligence resulting in death and of breaking immigration laws, an official from a court in the country’s southern Ranong province told AFP.

The owner of the container truck was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a second defendant received nine years and a third — who owned a jetty in southern Thailand where the migrants arrived by boat — was jailed for six years.

A woman defendant had her sentence halved to three years after confessing, the official said.

“Three of them were granted bail of between $13,000 and $6,500 while they file appeals,” the official said, adding that one defendant had been held in custody after failing to meet bail terms.

The truck driver, who fled the scene after discovering the tragedy, was jailed for six years in August 2008 having admitted to his role in the crime, the official added.

Survivors have recounted desperately trying to raise the alarm as they fought for breath in the storage box.

“No matter how many times we hit the container the driver did not pay any attention,” one female migrant who was on board told Thai television.

More than two million migrant workers are registered to work in Thailand, most of them from Myanmar, labour ministry figures show, but as many as one million undocumented workers are believed to be in the kingdom.

Thailand this week extended a deadline by three months for unregistered migrants to gain a work permit or face deportation.

Huge numbers of people from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar work illegally in low-paid jobs in construction, seafood processing and clothing factories, where a lack of legal status leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

By Bangkok Post
Published on 28 December 2012

Unverified migrant workers get 3 months, The Nation

Migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar who have failed to get their nationality verified will be granted another three months to apply for a work permit, the Labour Ministry said yesterday.The migrant-worker management committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, agreed with the ministry’s proposal to relax measures for the more than 260,000 migrant workers in Thailand and grant them extra time to apply for a work permit, Vice Labour Minister Anusorn Kraiwatnusorn said.

The measure will be put forward for Cabinet approval on January 8 before it is announced officially, he said.

Once the measure is officially announced, work-permit applications need to be submitted within a month so officials have at least a couple of months to process documents and check the migrants’ legal status in their countries, he said.

“During this three-month period, migrant workers will be able to remain in Thailand legally,” Anusorn said, confirming that they will not be arrested or deported for illegal entry.

He added that the Labour Ministry will also help set up one-stop service centres in a cooperation scheme with neighbouring countries to facilitate the registration process.

Migrant workers who obtain a work permit during this period will be allowed to work in Thailand for two years and be granted social welfare benefits, he said.

It is estimated that some 2 million migrant workers are based in Thailand.

As of December 14, some 1.2 million workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar had registered and completed the verification procedure.

By The Nation
Published on 27 December 2012

Labour ministry seeking cabinet approval to legalise 300,000 illegal migrant workers

Thailand’s Ministry of Labour plans to seek cabinet approval to endorse some 300,000 illegal migrants who failed to go through nationality verification process.

Permanent-Secretary for Labour Somkiat Chayasriwong said the deadline of the nationality verification process set by the Thai government has passed but there are still about 300,000 illegal migrants workers who have not been through the process.

The government earlier extended the nationality verification procedure which ended in June to December 14 to verify the nationality of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao before registering them to work in Thailand.

Nationality verification is significant in solving the problem of illegal foreign labour employment.

Mr Somkiat said the labour ministry is now drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the three neighbouring countries to issue temporary passports for the migrant workers whose nationalities have not yet been verified so that they will have legal status in the kingdom.

As of now, the Lao PDR and Cambodia agreed with the idea, said Mr Somkiat, adding the ministry is discussing with the Myanmar authorities on Friday on the matter.

Mr Somkiat said the issue will be proposed for Thai cabinet approval early next year. The employers will be required to send the names of employees whose nationality has not yet been verified to the ministry within a  one month timeframe.

He said all the process will be complete within three months from sending the name list. The illegal migrant workers are obliged to collect their temporary passports at the locations determined by their country of origin, such as Lao migrant workers, who will have to cross a border to get their passports, while the Cambodians can collect their passports at the embassy in Bangkok.

By MCOT online news

Published on 20 December 2012

Deporting migrants is short-sighted

No, no, no! That was the firm answer from Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap when the business sector and rights groups repeatedly asked him to extend the nationality verification deadline to allow migrant workers more time to obtain the passports, visas, and work permits required to work here legally.

Playing tough, Mr Padermchai also threatened to immediately deport any migrant workers who failed to meet the Dec 14 deadline.

As many as 2 million people may be subjected to this mass deportation. Don’t believe the 300,000 number quoted by the government. That’s far too low.

With no system for safe deportation, imagine the commotion that will ensue. The migrant workers, most of whom are from Myanmar, are destined to suffer from maltreatment and extortion from officials on both sides of the border.

Given Mr Padermchai’s past attempt to deport pregnant migrant women, I don’t think he cares.

The deportation threat has not only sent a wave of panic throughout the migrant communities, it has also worsened the country’s image internationally.

Thailand is already facing boycott warnings from the European Union and the US due to widespread human trafficking and abuse of migrant labour, particularly in the fishery industry.

Fear of forced deportation will push undocumented migrants deeper underground, make them even more vulnerable to labour abuses and subject them to more aggressive police extortion. Subsequently, Thailand will come under fiercer international scrutiny over human rights violations and probably face a new round of boycott threats.

Does Mr Padermchai know what he is doing?

To be fair, his hardline policy is no different than those undertaken by his predecessors _ which failed miserably.

Before the advent of the nationality verification scheme, the government tried to keep track of undocumented migrant workers through the registration system, which was plagued with problems. Among these maladies were red tape, high fees, an insufficient time frame for submission of paperwork, a lack of labour benefits, and no guarantee against police extortion.

Since the labour law still prohibits migrant workers’ mobility and changing of employers, and since their legal documents are still confiscated by the employers, a large number of migrants choose to stay underground rather than join the system.

To force migrant workers to register, the government’s tactic was to issue an ultimatum: register within the deadline, or face deportation. When the initial deadline came, employers protested and the labour authorities played tough. They would reach a compromise and either the deadline would be extended or another round of registration would be scheduled.

When the government opted for nationality verification as a process to legalise underground workers, the system was plagued by the same old problems, and more.

To start with, the workers were required to submit identification papers from their governments. This is often not possible due to poor civil registration systems in their home countries.

When combined with the problems of red tape, high fees, the prospect of debt bondage, and no guarantee of improved work conditions, many decided to stay underground.

It’s clear. If the government wants all undocumented workers to be part of the mainstream labour system, the legalisation process must be cheap and easily accessible. It must also offer clear benefits such as a minimum wage, freedom of movement, and the right to change jobs.

Yet, Thailand refuses to offer that. The underlying problem is deep-rooted prejudice against migrant workers. When viewed as national security threats, elimination is naturally the answer. Hence, the policy fixation on deportation.

Migration is a normal phenomenon throughout history. And until recently, integration has always been our country’s choice towards newcomers. This openness is key to the country’s economic vitality and cultural richness. Racist nationalism is a recent phenomenon.

Unless we see this, forced deportation will remain the core policy on migrant labour management. As Thailand’s population ages and younger workers are required to keep the economy alive, we’ll soon regret our refusal to allow migrants to be part of our workforce.

By then, we will not be able to blame anything else but our own prejudice.

By Bangkok Post

Published on 19 December 2012


PRESS RELEASE: 18 December 2012


Members of the Mekong Migration Network have marked International Migrants Day through events in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phang Nga and Yangon.

On 16 December, 300 local and migrant workers marched through Bangkok and presented a petition to the Deputy Minister of Labour of Thailand demanding inclusion of migrant workers in social security and labour rights for all workers. The event was organized by network member Friends of Women Foundation, coordinating with Action Network for Migrants (ANM).

On 18 December in Chiang Mai, at a double launch, network member MAP Foundation launched its ‘REGULARRIGHTS’ paper, which compares and analyses the working and living conditions of documented and undocumented migrants in Thailand. The paper draws on information supplied by over 400 migrants who shared their experiences. Key findings in the paper show that there were improvements in general living conditions and access to services for documented migrants, however there remained serious issues related to working conditions especially occupational health and safety for all migrants regardless of their status. MAP Foundation is also broadcasting on global migrant network Radio1812 today:

Joining MAP Foundation in the double launch, the Mekong Migration Network launched a dedicated website focusing on the arrest, detention and deportation (ADD) of migrants in the Greater Mekong The double launch was attended by members of Thai, Shan and Burmese media, and representatives of migrant workers, sex workers, women’s groups, donor organizations and academia.

The Foundation for Education and Development (FED) held a Public Forum at the Phang Nga Community Centre, to talk about migrant rights and recent Thai Law on migration, with guest speakers from government.

Also on the 18th, for the first time, MMN was involved in a public event to celebrate International Migrants Day in Yangon, Burma. At the Traders Hotel, MMN launched the new ADD website, followed by the main event, which was FED’s launch of their new film, ‘Father School’, a story of migrant children in Thailand. The director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi and actors from the film, together with civil society and media, joined in celebrating this global day of action.

For further information please contact:

Ms Jackie Pollock (MAP Foundation): / ph: 086 090 4118

Ms Omsin Boonlert (MMN): / ph: 084 687 2910

PDF [177KB]


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