Thailand to register migrant children

Dec 10, 2009 (DVB), Children of migrant workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia will soon be registered by the Thai government and eligible to enroll in school, migrant organisations have announced.

The process is already underway in a number of towns on Thailand's border with Burma, and Thai government officials are reportedly collecting lists of migrant children to ready for registration.

To register the children, parents must hold migrant workers identification cards or migrant registration forms.

There are estimated to be between two and three million Burmese migrants in Thailand, most of whom work in low-skilled labour industries, such as fishing and construction, with little pay.

The deadline for registration is 18 December. A Burmese migrant in Bangkok told DVB that he had already submitted applications for his two children.

"To apply for the registration, two photos and personal details of the child and the parents are needed," he said. "The children whose parents have no legal stay in the country cannot apply."

Migrant NGOs in Thailand's border town of Mae Sot said that applications are already being accepted at the municipal office and at the town's administration office.

Ko Aye, from the Migrant Assistance Programme (MAP) foundation office in Mae Sot welcomed the initiative, while Htoo Chit, from the Human Right Education and Development group, said the programme could "bring light to future of migrant children in Thailand".

According to statistics from Thailand's labour ministry, around 700,000 Burmese migrant workers registered for labour documents this year.

A number of centres have already been set up along the Thai-Burma border to register Burmese migrant workers living in Thailand. Without legal status, access to education and healthcare in Thailand is heavily restricted.

The agreement between the two countries was technically formalized in 2003, although progress on it has been slow. Thailand also has similar agreements with Cambodia and Laos.

Criticism was leveled at the scheme in July after it was revealed that Burma's ethnic Rohingya group would be barred from registering. The Burmese government refuses to recognize the Muslim minority and thus grants them no legal status.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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