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Some Burmese migrant workers have been assuming new identities in a bid to return to work in Thailand after completing the four years of employment they are entitled to, a source from a labour NGO says.
More than 150,000 workers are required to return to their home countries after having worked in Thailand for four years. They must also legally wait at least three before they can return and resume employment, according to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Burma, officially known as Myanmar, and Thailand.
Authorities amended the MoU to reduce the waiting period to one day, but the amendment has not taken effect because the caretaker government is not authorised to endorse it.
As the current restriction stands, workers whose four-year employment deadlines have expired have already returned to their countries. Many have changed their names and obtained new passports in order to dodge the three-year wait and return to Thailand immediately.
But the cabinet has recently passed a resolution allowing migrant workers at the end of their four-year employment to remain in the country for another 180 days, or until a new government is elected.
To stay on for an extra 180 days, workers must secure a special permit. They must be taken by their employers to obtain the permit at designated labour service centres in Chiang Rai, Tak, Ranong, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon, Thailand’s Employment Department chief Prawit Kiangpol said.
Workers who leave the country and change their names will technically be working as “newcomers” upon their return to Thailand. This means they will be without social security privileges in the first several months of their employment, according to the source.
The law stipulates workers must contribute to the social security fund for at least three consecutive months to qualify for free medical coverage. For medical coverage in case of childbirth, the minimum contribution period extends to seven months.
Mr Prawit said the 180-day reprieve was granted to avert damage to the economy from a feared labour shortage resulting from the MoU amendment not yet being endorsed.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 11 April 2014.