Nearly 2,000 undocumented Myanmar migrant workers were arrested in Thailand nine months from January to September this year. And there are also arrests for illegal border crossings. In addition, some Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand have no job and some do not secure their full wage although they came into the kingdom under MoU system. Some of these workers were dismissed from their job.
This interview with U Aung Kyaw, the spokesperson of Labour Rights Foundation (LRF), is about arrest of Myanmar migrant workers, labour rights violation against MoU workers and challenges for them.
TLT: How about the arrest of Myanmar migrant workers who illegally crossed into Thailand?
U Aung Kyaw: Illegal border crossing is happening regularly. When a country has lacked stability and employment opportunity, people from this country migrate another country for employment in possible ways. While Thai authorities increased security near the border, some of them were arrested. The number of arrest has declined.
TLT: How about the arrest of undocumented migrant workers in Thailand?
U Aung Kyaw: We found the statement of Thai authorities on the arrest of average 4,000 undocumented migrant workers in 2021-2022. The figure declined later although there are still some arrests. Thai authorities occasionally searched for undocumented migrants.
TLT: Some migrant workers under MoU system are facing labour rights violations, and they are reportedly encountering problems of wage. Could you talk about it?
U Aung Kyaw: Yes, these are very tragic incidents. We understand the plight of illegal migrants through border crossings. However, it is totally unacceptable for official migrant workers under MoU system which was signed by the employer, the worker and the labour ministry of Myanmar. It is because of unaccountability and the lack of management of relevant government departments. Recently, an employment agency has sought jobs for 164 Myanmar migrant workers only after they have migrated to Thailand. They should be employed at the factory they signed the contract, and they can enjoy the specific wage and labour rights.
TLT: It was learnt that salary of Thai workers will be increased by their government. Could you talk about it?
U Aung Kyaw: It was a promise in election campaign of a political party. But they did not mention a specific period for increment of 400 baht per day for common laborer across the country. Thai works still wait and see the promise.
TLT: How about the present wage and commodity price?
U Aung Kyaw: Before the new government has not implement their promise for salary increase, the commodity prices has begun to increase. Political situation of Thailand does not look stable as the wining political party in the election could not form a government. Overseas commodity orders have declined, and the workers cannot work overtime. They have to rely on the wage from regular 8 working hours. As commodity prices are increasing, income of some Thai workers do not cover the living cost.
TLT: What is your view on military’s policy to levy income tax from overseas Myanmar migrant workers?
U Aung Kyaw: The military council should review our discussions. Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand do not earn a large amount of income for saving. They have many difficulties for survival. So, levying income tax will cause troubles for the migrant workers.
TLT: What is the major challenge of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand?
U Aung Kyaw: No significant changes have occurred under the new administration of Thailand. However, higher commodity prices and lower income have caused difficulties for the workers. Although Thailand’s economy has not declined significantly, income of the workers do not earn regular income. They could remit certain amount of money to their families when they got 350 baht for regular wage plus overtime earnings. A total of about 500 baht is enough for them. Now they can work only 8 hours a day with no overtime fees, and they cannot remit their money anymore. The order of military council to levy income tax from them has make the migrant workers upset.
TLT: What is your conclusion remark?
U Aung Kyaw: If someone considers going for overseas job due to the lack of stability and security in home country, the situation of destination country needs to be learn in advance. It is my advice from my experience on the difficulties of migrant workers.