Renewed push to legalise migrant workers in Thailand to start later this month
MYANMAR migrant workers in Thailand will be issued with Certificates of Identity before the end of November, in a joint effort by the Thai government and Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.
The ministry says the Thai government has given a green light to setting up six one-stop service centres around the country.
U Thein Win, director of the ministry’s Migrant Affairs Department, said the Thai government is cooperating on the Certificate of Identity (CI) project.
“We have already trained teams to send there, but we need more time for processing,” he said.
U Thein Win says successful implementation of the project is key, and if carried out properly it should edge out exploitative brokers.
The government hopes to dole out more than 640,000 CIs in a renewed push to legalise undocumented migrant workers in Thailand.
More than half a million Myanmar migrant workers are currently stuck in limbo after Thailand’s latest announcement about yet another series of deadlines and registration processes for foreign workers.
The momentum for boosting migrant worker protections that came with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s July visit to Thailand appears to have fizzled out, with agreements over documentation making little headway in the interim.
Myanmar officials have blamed Thailand for the delay. Migrant worker rights groups say 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”. But no progress has occurred since. “We can start the process of issuing CIs at the end of this month,” said U Thein Win.
The Thailand-based Migrant Worker Rights Network said the reasons for issuing certificates of identity are still unclear. However, it characterised the certificates as a “halfway-style verification document” that would require follow-up – and likely more fees – in order to obtain a Myanmar passport.
“This shows how poor relations and coordination between Myanmar and Thailand continue to be on migration issues,” said MWRN chair U Sein Htay, pointing out that at least the pink card system allows relative ease of movement.
“If the Myanmar government issued temporary passports to migrant workers instead, the workers would be much better positioned under the law,” he added.