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Myanmar migrants in Thailand still live in fear

Publication Date : 19-06-2014

 

Anxiety is still running high among Myanmar migrants and their employers in Samut Sakhon following arrests of undocumented workers by Thai authorities, despite the junta’s insistence that its policy targets only illegal workers, said a field officer at Raks Thai Foundation.

There are over 200,000 migrant workers in the province and 90 per cent are Myanmar nationals. Of the total, only 190,000 possess legal document.

Narong Payungsak, a field officer at the foundation, said that daily arrests of migrant workers were occurring. They are, however, released immediately after intervention by their employers.

“Employers are still fretting. News reports show Cambodian workers still fleeing the country. Will this be the same thing as Myanmar workers? What we can do is to say that legal workers will not be affected,” he said. “Fears remain.
Now, the wet markets or modern stores like Tesco or Big C in this area are totally quiet.”

He said that he communicated with the employers by phone or told teen migrants to spread news through their Facebook accounts.

Sirigorn Leardchayopit, another officer at the foundation, said yesterday that some Myanmar workers are now hiding from Thai officers.

“They have been hiding at temples and in forests, avoiding police and military officers who keep on knocking on their doors and making arrests. Last night, they were here at 4pm and stayed until 5am,” she said.

Sirigorn said that while having a lunch break and failing to show papers, workers at a canned fish factory were rounded up and taken away in two police trucks today. They were freed following intervention by the factory’s manager.
“The problem now is lack of clarity about the NCPO’s policy to relax the rule. Does this mean an arrest or no arrest? Meanwhile, employers are being told to submit the names of unregistered workers. To whom should the lists be, the Labour Ministry or the NCPO?”

Meanwhile, Mon ethnic Myanmar worker Min Lin Sao, chair of the migrant workers’ club at Chon Buri’s Sri Racha district, on Tuesday said that some 200 out of the club’s 300 members returned to their countries.
After Sri Racha police explained to him that the rumours of a violent crackdown were groundless, he said he would call in 100 members to a meeting to explain that army and police did not use violence. He said many migrants already knew this and were working as usual.

Thailand’s permanent-secretary for labour Jeerasak Sukhonthachart said today that out of some 100,000 migrant workers having fled Thailand, 60-70 per cent of them were Cambodian workers in Eastern Thailand.

Chulalongkorn University academic Panitan Wattanayagorn supported a reform of the system so that some two million illegal workers could be registered. This would also give them basic rights protection and boost Thailand’s image.

Many provinces – such as Nakhon Ratchasima, Tak and Songkhla – also saw Thai authorities engage in public relations efforts with employers and migrant workers to rebut rumours of a violent crackdown on Cambodian workers.

No. of migrant workers in Thailand as of May, 2014
Myanmar 1,736,740
Laos 130,024
Cambodia 437,936
Total 2,304,700
Source: Labour Ministry

 

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