Migrant workers denied medical care

Apr 1, 2009 (DVB), Two Thai-based organisations have urged the United Nations to provide assistance to Burmese migrant workers in Thailand whose labour rights were being denied by their employers.

The Human Rights and Development Foundation and the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee said, in a letter addressed to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, that the majority of Burmese migrants working in Thailand were denied compensation by their employers for injuries in the workplace.

"They have to work in very dangerous and dirty places and yet a lot of migrants in our programme said they do not get compensation when they get injured," said Andy Hall, Migrant Justice Programme Director for HRDF.

He also criticised the Thai and the Burmese governments for failing to cooperate in solving the migrant issue. The Thai government was using the illegal status of migrants in Thailand as an excuse for not giving them rights, he said.

"Whether they are legal or not, they should be treated the same way and given the same rights when they get injured.

"The Thai government should give them assistance and not discriminate against them," he said.

According to non-governmental organisations in Thailand, about 500,000 out of the 2 million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand do not have legal documents.

An official from Chiang Mai's HRDF branch said there were around 200,000 Burmese migrant workers in northern Thailand, many of whom were denied medical assistance from their employers.

Importantly, those affected did not complain to authorities due to their illegal status. The Thai government earlier this year denied extensions to migrant work permits.

The education coordinator of the Migrant Justice Programme in Mahachai sub-district in Bangkok, Mi Hantha, said that Burmese migrants in the area who work closely with heavy machinery faced the possibility of serious injury, and some had lost limbs.

"Recently, there was an incident with a Burmese migrant who lost four fingers after his hand got stuck in a machine," she said.

"His employer only paid him 10,000 baht ($US280) in compensation and kicked him out of his factory."

There are no proper safety measures and insurance in the workplace, said Andy Hall, adding that the Thai government was not do anything to enforce employers to follow these regulations.

"The Burmese migrants have no choice but to work in these dangerous places because their first priority now is to send money back to their families in Burma," he said.

Reporting by Nay Thoo

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