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Burma to up Thailand migrant assistance

Burma will greatly increase its assistance to migrants working in Thailand, following three days of talks in Bangkok between a delegation of Burmese officials and Thailand’s labour minister, Phadoemchai Sasomsap.

Speaking to DVB at the close of play yesterday, Burmese Deputy Labour Minister Myint Thein, who led the delegation, said that the two sides discussed a raft of issues related to the rights of up to three million Burmese migrants living in the Kingdom, many of whom struggle with healthcare and legal assistance.

“We are here [in Thailand] to coordinate with [Thai authorities] to go through procedures such as migrants’ national identification and issuing temporary passports inside Thailand, as well as on issues such as their visa fees and job finding.

“For the latest, we have requested the Thai government to provide assistance to our migrants being affected by recent flooding and they’ve pledged to do so.”

Andy Hall, from the Thailand-based Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), said that the meeting also resulted in the addition of a labour attaché at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, whilst regional centres would be set up to make it easier for migrants to complete the registration process.

Chin Sein, part of the Burmese delegation, said: “We were negotiating to set up five more offices on top of already existing ones in areas including Mahachai-Samut Sakorn, Bangkok metropolitan area, and in north and south Thailand.”

The move was “cautiously welcomed” by HRDF, with Hall adding that many migrants feel that the embassy under the previous junta “didn’t care”.

The meeting also established that Burma would “also send five teams of … delegates to install online shared data system between Myanmar [Burma] and Thailand in order to reduce working procedures and time,” according to a Thai government press statement.

There are between two and three million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, whose total migrant population accounts for some five percent of the Thai work force, and seven percent of GDP. They invariably occupy the most undesirable and dangerous professions.

The Thai government press statement further noted that the Burmese delegation “also asked the Thai government to permit those accompanying Myanmar workers to legally be in Thailand”, likely referring to the family members who join their relatives working in Thailand. “And after they are nationality verified and legally employed, Thai employers should be responsible for Social Security contribution of Myanmar workers.”

Thailand’s former Democrat government had sought to exclude foreign workers from a national workers’ compensation fund, which would see migrant workers rely on their employers for insurance in the result of injury in the workplace. But the Abhisit administration’s refusal was deemed by critics to be a contravention ofThailand’s treaty obligations in lieu of discriminating on the basis of nationality.

The Thai government has also been desperately attempting to regularise the large numbers of workers who travel with little or no documentation.

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