Burmese and Thai labour officials held a high-level meeting on 7 May in Bangkok where they agreed to cooperate and provide full labour rights to Burmese migrants, with additional pledges to protect the estimated one to two million Burmese in Thailand from elements such as extortion and employment scams.
According to Min Hlaing, the chairman of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Services Association (MOESA), the meeting mainly focused on rights protection for Burmese migrant workers, specifically the formation of labour bodies in both countries to monitor and prevent abuses.
“It was roundly agreed that establishing labour bodies in both countries to supervise procedures will prevent abuses such as scams and extortion while also providing assistance with migrants’ issues and protecting their rights,” he said.
The MOESA chairman said that Burmese officials raised the issue of renewing migrants’ passports and work permits after their four-year visa terms have expired in order to protect them from arrest while they wait for new documents.
Thai officials in response said that “one-stop service” centres had been opened in border towns to issue fresh documentation to migrants. However, they noted that few Burmese workers had used the service, and they urged the Burmese government to help persuade migrants to adhere to the procedure.
It is estimated that of the hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrants whose four-year visas have now expired, only around 6,000 have sought fresh documents.
Thai and Burmese officials also discussed updating the existing MoU on employment cooperation which was agreed last year.
The meeting was attended by a 12-person delegation from Burma which included Labour Minister Htin Aung, Labour Ministry Director- General Myo Aung, Burma’s ambassador to Thailand Aung Myint, and the Burmese embassy’s Labour Attaché Thein Naing. Their Thai counterparts were led by Labour Ministry Permanent Secretary Jirasak Sukhonthachart.