Thai-LAW Migrant workers to be forced to return to Burma to re-apply for permits

In February 2010, all Burmese migrant workers will be forced to return to Burma to apply, through a new system, for legal work-permit papers from the Burmese authorities. In the meantime, migrant workers whose present work permits are due to expire before next year will be issued with a one-year extension by the Thai authorities on production of the correct documentation. Documents giving information on the scheme have been received by the Chiang Mai-based Migrant Assistance Programme (MAP).
Representatives of the Chiang Mai local authority have been in contact with the Workers’ Solidarity Association (WSA) in Chiang Mai, to discuss the issuance of the Burmese work permits, and have told the WSA that as, migrants’ permits will not be renewed again in 2010, the authority will collect personal registration details of all migrant workers at present in the city.
A WSA representative is concerned that migrant workers will be ‘in the crossfire’ if the new system is implemented, as they will not be able to stay in Thailand, and may well be under threat of persecution by Burmese officials, should they return to their homeland. A plan to set up a work permit registration office in Chiang Mai, rather than in Tachilek, across the border, met with doubt from the WSA representative, who stated that, “We would like to stress that we are afraid to believe this new information due to lessons learnt from the past.”
An agreement between Thailand and Burma as regards the setting up of nationality identification centres for migrant workers was concluded in 2006, but has not yet been implemented. Reports that migrant workers returning home had been terrorised into paying bribes to junta authorities after their personal details had been used to trace their relatives would appear to be the reason for the WSA’s reluctance to trust the new scheme.

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