Thai government issued an announcement last week for illegal migrants including Myanmar workers to apply for work permit and verification cards.

This interview with U Aung Kyaw, the spokesperson of Labour Rights Foundation,  is about the recent announcement of Thai government on this issue, situation of illegal migration, and the ongoing challenges for Myanmar migrant workers.

TLT: Could you talk about illegal migration of Myanmar workers through border areas and the situation of their arrest?

U Aung Kyaw: Illegal migration seems to decline, not totally stop. We cannot know all about illegal migrations as Myanmar and Thailand share over 2,000-kilometer border line. The migration may occur in new routes to avoid the arrest. Those who used  old passages were arrested by Thai authorities.

 Illegal migration has not totally stopped due to the loss of employment opportunities and the lack of safety. We could not know how many illegal migrants have passed the border. We concluded less illegal migration based on the declining number of arrests by Thai authorities at the border areas.

TLT:  Thai government issued an announcement on the issue of migrant workers on 5 July. Could you talks on this?

U Aung Kyaw: The first announcement was made on 6 June. In this announcement, illegal migrant workers would be allowed for living and working in Thailand by 31 July. Workers under MoU system who have four or five years contract were be permitted to work at their employer even though their visa has expired. However, the employers needed to submit their job vacancies to the Minister of Labour by 31 July.

After that, workers under MoU system needed to go back home to get the extension of their contract officially. If the workers continued living in Thailand, they needed extension until 31 July. The first announcement did not specify the issue of undocumented workers.  The second announcement includes more detailed information. It said that migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia in Thailand must be named at their employers. Undocumented migrants need employers for verification process. And then, they shall apply for registration at the Ministry of Labour.

Employers need to submit applications for their employees by 31 July. If application has been approved, the employees will be allowed living in Thailand officially. If migrant workers want to live and work officially, they need job and the employer will submit their application.

TLT: What are ongoing challenges of Myanmar migrant workers at present? Which assistance is being given to the workers under MoU system?

U Aung Kyaw: Thai government instructed these workers to go back home after Covid-19 pandemic has been under control and to make new contract. However, some workers did not go back home because they have no house for living and no family to meet anymore. Under the government order, employer will be subjected to a fine between and they will face prison sentence. So, the Myanmar migrants lost their jobs for living and they later turned into undocumented workers.

TLT: What is your concluding remark in this interview?

U Aung Kyaw: We expected that the recent announcement might appear only after the new government has been formed, and  new rules and policies might be issued only after parliament has been convened . However, at the suggestions and requests of labour advocacy organizations on the migrant workers issues in Thailand, the caretaker government made this announcement immediately. So, both illegal migrant workers and those who are in MoU system need to work together with their employers not to miss this verification process. Thailand is not likely to do verification programs repeatedly in the future. So, my suggestion is to try for official documents properly.

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