Sangkhlaburi — While temporary passports allow migrant workers from Burma more freedom in Thailand, they have been known to attract attention from local Burmese authorities, who seek bribes from workers and their families.
A villager from Hnit Kayin of Lamaing sub-township told Kaowao that many villagers are reluctant to apply for the temporary passport because their village headmen have asked for money from applicants. When the mother of Lawee Mon Chan of southern Ye was asked to pay money to the Ye Immigration Department, Lawee decided not to go through with his passport application, even if it meant he could work legally in Thailand. Temporary passports are being issued as a result of a joint initiative between Thailand and Burma to replace traditional worker IDs issued by the Thai Labor Ministry. The old IDs restrict migrant workers from moving outside of their work area. “Temporary passports are more favorable than the previous IDs because we can travel to other places,” Nai Soe from Maharchai said. “The Thai police and our employers are willing to give us space, but I am worried that the SPDC will extort our money once we are home. Local authorities have our information. This is another opportunity to tax or exploit our parents.”
A Temporary Passport Center was opened in Myawaddy, opposite Maesot, Tak Province in Thailand. According to a Kaowao reporter, Burmese officials verify national ID cards and supporting letters from workers’ local headmen so they can issue the passports on time.
In addition to the extortion, it was reported that about 20 people from Mudon Township were arrested and sent to Insein Prison while applying for their passports in Myawaddy. While the news was unconfirmed, many workers are now afraid to apply for the passport.
About 700,000 workers from Burma have registered for work permits in Thailand. Many more are working illegally, mostly in construction, fishing and agriculture.