Labour ministry blames Thai counterparts for documentation hold-up
ALL the momentum to boost migrant worker protections following the state counsellor’s July visit to Thailand appears to have fizzled out, with agreements over documentation making no headway in the interim.
Myanmar officials have blamed Thailand for the delay, accusing the neighbouring country of not fulfilling their end of the logistics planning. But rights groups assisting the workers say the back-and-forth finger-pointing is only leaving workers – already no strangers to quixotic documentation announcements – in yet another legal lurch.
The latest tussle began in April when Thailand invalidated a “temporary passport” system. The 1 million Myanmar workers holding those two-year documents were told to sign up for the legally dubious “pink card” system instead. The workers who followed the directive and re-registered were supposed to be granted “certificates of identity” (CI). But no progress has occurred since. U Myo Aung, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Immigration, held his Thai counterparts responsible for the delay. The Thai authorities have yet to provide details for how the scheme – which requires the workers’ home country to verify their identity – will function, he said.
During the state counsellor’s visit, the two governments hashed out some of the details of the plan. They were to jointly establish nine citizenship verification centres around Thailand, which would be equipped to issue the certificates.
U Myo Aung said the agreement stalled after a reshuffle of Thai labour officials, and permission for establishing the centres on Thai turf was never issued.
“If the Thai side is ready to resume the CI process, they should cooperate with us,” U Myo Aung said.
U Thein Win, director of the migrant affairs department under the Labour and Immigration Ministry, told The Myanmar Times that his department again requested confirmation of the agreement last week, but has yet to receive a reply.
“On our side, we are ready to implement the CI as soon as Thailand confirms,” he said.
U Sein Htay, chair of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), said both governments are blaming each other, yet neither is willing to take responsibility for actually instituting the CI process.
“We have been promised these CIs would be issued for a long time, but the whole thing is still very opaque since both governments are just talking and not getting down to the practicalities of doing the work needed,” he said.