Provincial Decrees in Southern Thailand

Overview

Migrant workers help sustain the country’s national industries, contribute to economic growth, and recently helped rebuild vast areas in the South devastated by the tsunami of December 26th 2004. Nevertheless, under Thai law migrants are offered only minimal legal protection and have a limited access to recourse in case of right violation Rather than seeking to redress this serious social inequity, the provincial governments in five provinces in southern Thailand have recently issued decrees that further strips migrant workers of their fundamental rights.

The first such decree, issued by the provincial government of Phuket in December 2006, seeks to restrict migrant workers’ freedom of movement and ability to communicate by imposing an 8:00 p.m. curfew, prohibiting migrants from owning, or even using, mobile phones and motorbikes, and banning the public assembly of groups larger than 5 people.

Employers are furthermore held responsible for (and therefore put in a position of control over) the movements and actions of the workers under their employ. The provinces of Ranong, Surathani, Rayong and Phang Nga soon implemented similar laws.

It bears repeating that these decrees are applicable to migrant workers who possess valid work permits issued by the government. In other words, the Thai government allows migrants to work in Thailand but denies their fundamental human rights.

Map of Southern Thailand

Consequences

The many dire consequences of these decrees are being documented by various organizations in the affected areas. At the time of the announcement of the decrees, the Action Network for Migrants (Thailand) predicted that the decrees would “…adversely affect migrant’s ability to access healthcare and to practice health.”

Indeed, there have been several instances of reduced access to healthcare for undocumented workers too afraid of arrest to seek medical attention, as well as documented workers whose employers may choose to withhold from them the permission to travel in order to obtain the necessary healthcare.

The decrees have also necessarily impeded the migrants’ access to education, particularly non-formal education.

Workers report increased police extortion (particularly of undocumented workers), confiscation of mobile phones and motor bikes, and perhaps most disturbingly, increased participation by regular Thai citizens in the arrests and confiscations.

The decrees` representation of these minority groups as a threat to national security has been leading the Thai society into that with the more nationalistic attitudes and xenophobic hatred directed at migrant workers.

It should be emphasized that the decrees specifically target migrant workers from Burma, Lao PDR and Cambodia, and are therefore blatantly discriminatory, representing a flagrant breach of Thailand’s commitments under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which it joined in 2003.

These decrees effectively place workers at the mercy of their employers by forbidding workers from leaving their place of employment and making contact with others outside their place of employment.
The resulting working conditions are akin to forced labour, and as such represent a violation of the ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, to which Thailand is also signatory.

Actions and Protests against the decrees

The Action Network for Migrants (ANM) designated August 30th 2007 as the global day against the provincial decrees.

The ANM, together with a number of migrants’ grassroots organizations, migrant support NGOs and networks, Thai trade unions and labour NGOs and networks, and activists from various universities, staged a protest in front of the government house in Bangkok and submitted letters to the Royal Thai Government.

These protests were echoed by solidarity protests in many other countries. Representatives of Asian Migrant Centre also have met with the Consulate General of the Royal Kingdom of Thailand in Hong Kong in support of the action held in Thailand.

• Provincial Decrees in 5 Southern Provinces (Summary in English) (PDF 20.7KB)

• Provincial Decrees in Surat Thani (PDF 119KB)

• Provincial Decrees in Ranong (PDF 122KB)

• Provincial Decrees in Phang Nga (PDF 120KB)

• Provincial Decrees in Rayong (PDF 119KB)

• Provincial Decrees in Phuket (PDF 119KB)

• Specific Cases against Migrants Resulting from the New Decree in Phang Nga Province in Thailand (Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development) (PDF 1.2MB)

• AMC statement against Implementation of Provincial Decrees, August 30th 2007 (PDF 16.8KB)

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