Thursday, 21 November 2019

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Cautious optimism greets Burmese minister’s overtures on labor rights

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese migrant workers responded with cautious optimism to the words of Burma’s Deputy Foreign Minister yesterday, in which he urged the Thai Labor Minister not to arrest and prosecute Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.
Deputy Minister Maung Myint voiced his concern, as reported in Burma’s state-run New Light of Myanmar, while meeting with his Thai counterpart on the 15th of this month in the town of Pretcha Chirikan in Thailand.

A five-member Burmese delegation headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister was visiting Thailand at the invitation of Thailand’s Ministry of Labor for senior level talks running from the 14th to 16th of this month.

The Migrant Workers Affairs Department, under the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), welcomed the news, with In-charge Thet Khaing referencing the occasion as the first ever compassionate discussion on Burmese migrant worker issues on the part of Burmese authorities with their Thai counterparts.

“We welcomed it because this is a first ever recognition by the junta’s minister of his own citizens. Previously, they saw migrant workers as traitors who betrayed the country, and the workers were bullied and exploited in various ways,” Thet Khaing told Mizzima.

Thai Prime Minister Aphisit Veijjachiva had issued an executive order dated June 2nd to “suppress, arrest and prosecute” illegal migrant workers. Accordingly, Thai officials have arrested illegal migrant workers daily, said Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB) Section Director Myint Wei.

Kyaw Thu, a Burmese migrant worker, said he is glad to hear of negotiations and discussions on migrant workers affairs by the two governments and wants to see the issuance of temporary Burmese passports with reduced fees. Moreover, he would like to see the Burmese government open passport issuing offices in Thailand.

“We welcome this sort of discussion, but the procedures adopted by the Burmese government are too complicated. It should be better than it currently is. They should expedite the passport issuing process by opening new offices at the places where the workers are living,” another migrant worker, Zeya, concurred.

Temporary passports have been issued on the Thai-Burma border since early this year in an effort to legalize migrant workers and eradicate human trafficking.

“If they made this move with the intention of vote canvassing for the upcoming election, it will not work,” warned Thet Khaing. “The workers will not vote for them, [they] see the junta as pushing them to this hard life, struggling for their livelihood in foreign countries.”

“We should demand the governments extend documents, streamlining the process. Moreover, a better process and procedure on granting bail to arrested workers should be established and better medical care given. These can be achieved if the two governments work in tandem and in sincerity with good intentions,” he added. “Migrant workers have much benefited Thailand. And both sides will benefit if side effects such as human trafficking can be eliminated.” 

Human rights and labor organizations estimate that only 900,000 out of over 2 million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand hold a valid residential permit. And according to official figures released by junta, out of nearly one million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, only 90,918 have been issued temporary passports as of May 26th.


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