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OPEN LETTER : ILO Should Urge Thai Prime Minister to Revoke 14th December Migrant Crackdown Threats & Address Migration Chaos

December 13, 2012

Open Letter to ILO Director General Mr. Guy Ryder:
ILO Should Urge Thai Prime Minister to Revoke 14th December Migrant Crackdown Threats & Address Migration Chaos

             

For more information on this open letter, please contact:

+66 (0)86 3361110 (Thai language – Sawit Keawan – SERC President)

+66 (0)88 0199554 (Thai/English Language – Chalee Loysong – TLSC President)

+66 (0)86 7555337 (Myanmar language – Aung Jaw – MWRN President)

+66 (0)84 6119209 (English language – Andy Hall – SERC International Advisor)

Thursday 13th December 2012

Dear Mr. Guy Ryder (Director General, International Labour Organisation):

The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC), the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) and the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) are all organisations of workers from Thailand and Myanmar formed by workers themselves to promote worker rights in Thailand. We join together in this open letter regardless of nationality or ethnicity and background to protect migrant worker rights. We welcome your visit to Thailand to see the conditions of all workers here, including migrants.

As you may know, Friday December 14th 2012 is the deadline for issuing temporary passports to migrant workers in Thailand from neighbouring Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar as part of the Nationality Verification (NV) process. After that date, all irregular workers will be deported back to their home countries, according to multiple government announcements. The Thai government will tomorrow end a two decades long regularisation process that has generally failed to ensure national, human and economic security for Thailand’s economy and people but and also migrant and their families in origin countries.

On December 14th, an estimated 1.5 million undocumented and registered migrant workers who did not complete the expensive and untransparent NV process to receive temporary passports will become ‘illegal’ workers. Despite diplomatic negotiations involving UN agencies and particularly involvement of an active Myanmar Deputy Labour Minister U Myint Thein, the Thai Labour Ministry cites a previous decision of the Thai National Security Council to justify its harsh position. SERC, TLSC and MWRN agree with the position there should be no extension to the NV deadline however. Migrant regularisation processes in Thailand have generally failed already and extension of a deadline will not improve anything now.

SERC, TLSC and MWRN are however deeply concerned for the fate of millions of migrants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar after the 14th December 2012 deadline. Every worker who has registered for Thai migrant worker documents during the past two decades would like to complete the NV process and become legal. But these workers face many problems that result not from their own behaviour but the systematic dishonesty and abuse of government officials, employers and recruitment agencies. Although many employers and brokers have taken money from migrants for some time already, workers still did not receive a passport. Migrants miss the opportunity to remain legal by no fault of their own. Likewise, the NV process has descended into a systematically corrupt process of extorting workers with collusion of too many senior government officials, agents and bad employers. Now the new regularisation process, formal import of workers from neighbouring countries, has likewise descended into an extortion process requiring workers to pay more than US$600 and leaving them too often in severe debt bondage to employers and brokers.

All migrant workers in Thailand don’t want to work illegally and anonymously. Although workers would like to follow Thai law, they can only survive according to the time and situation they are in. We believe most migrant workers would like to obey the law if they could. But this basic human right has been denied to millions of migrants in Thailand for over two decades. Migrant workers play an important role in Thailand’s economic and social development. But corrupt officials, recruitment agencies and bad employers continue to act unethically and are causing unfounded suffering to migrant workers for selfish reasons.

Every day abused and disadvantaged people from neighbouring countries migrate to Thailand irregularly. If the concerned authorities implemented systematic labour exchange and migration programmes, this problem would be solved. But instead, all concerned governments work with smuggling and trafficking agents to ensure the fate of us workers is determined not by rule of law but by corruption and abuse. It is time to act.

As the December 14th deadline nears, there are thousands of workers obtaining passport (in accordance with MoU agreements between Thailand and neighbouring countries) who are coming into Thailand. Although the MoU process has advantages for workers and is commendable of itself this process too faces serious challenge due to high costs, confiscation of worker identity documents and debt bondage that too often descends into situations of human trafficking. Thailand and neighbouring countries should ensure implementation of the MoU more effectively to ensure legal migration between Thailand and neighbouring countries becomes a safe and cost effective reality. But instead, all government connive only to exploit.

If policies are implemented in accordance with the multiple announcements of the Thai government, the process of arresting and deporting irregular workers after December 14th should be transparent with respect for human dignity and the rule of law. Arresting and extorting from irregular workers, as generally happens during arrest and deportation processes, is not the way to solve problems of irregular migration. Most of the deported workers on a day to day basis already face serious rights violations with brokers and ethnic militias at border areas of Thailand, particularly at Myawaddy-Mae Sot on the Thai Myanmar-Thai border. If the Thai government will deport workers, officials should also transparently cooperate for the handover of workers to their respective governments with respect for their human dignity.

But at the same time, Thailand is a country whose economy depends significantly on foreign labour. If the Thai government genuinely arrested and deported as many workers as it claims it will on December 14th, the Thai industry will face a significant shortage of labour. SERC, TLSC and MWRN therefore suspect the deportation of irregular workers and imposed deadline is suspicious and will not be carried out systematically. It is just an opportunity by corrupt officials, recruitment agencies and employers to exploit.

SERC, TLSC and MWRN kindly request that you, as Director General of the ILO, liaise with all concerned governments to use the 14th December 2012 deadline to genuinely address the migration chaos currently ongoing in Thailand. We ask you also to request the Prime Minister of Thailand to:

1.      Revoking threats of mass arrests and deportation following 14th December 2012.

2.      Accept that existing NV and MoU processes have become unregulated, expensive and risky for migrants and all parties concerned should find better methods to ensure legal migration in future;

3.      In line with the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families and international labour and human rights standards, Thailand and neighbouring countries should enter into regional and bilateral negotiations to address long term regional migration challenges with primacy given to protecting the human rights of migrant workers.

Yours sincerely,

State Enterprise and Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC)

Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC)

Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)

13th December, 2012 – Bangkok, Thailand


Andy Hall
Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR)
Mahidol University
Thailand: +66 (0) 846119209
Myanmar: +95 (0) 973249947
Twitter @atomicalandy

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