Thai authorities extend migrant registration period

Jan 29, 2008 (DVB), The Thai labour department has announced that Burmese migrant workers who did not register last year will be able to renew their registration between 21 January and 19 February without facing a fine.

Under a Thai government scheme, migrant workers pay around 4000 baht to register and receive an identity card which is valid for one year.

When the system was introduced in 2004, over 1.2 million migrants registered for the cards, but last year only 500,000 renewed their registration.

Moe Swe from the Mae Sot-based Yaung Chi Oo migrant workers' association said that the Thai government believes that many workers remain in the country illegally.

"The Thai government assumes the other 600,000 migrant workers who registered in 2004 but didn't renew their cards in 2007 are still inside the country, and this is intended to give them a chance to make themselves legal," Moe Swe said.

In previous years migrant workers could extend their registration for one year, but this year it will be valid for two years.

Nan Saw Aye, a migrant worker in Mae Sot, said that she had faced difficulties without a registration card.

"It's been difficult to go out without any legal documents, and I had to worry about the police all the time," she said.

"I am now very happy that the Thai government is offering to renew our registration."

Migrant workers in Thailand have to pay 3800 baht for a registration card, which also entitles them to medical assistance.

The Thai Ministry of Labour has set out a minimum wage for migrant workers, but many Burmese migrant workers are still being paid below this level.

Thai government reports estimate that there are currently around 2 million Burmese migrants working inside Thailand, of whom only 500,000 are registered.

Reporting by Saw Kanyaw

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