Labour min­istry blames Thai coun­ter­parts for doc­u­men­ta­tion hold-up

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­

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.

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