Migrant workers: No meddling in Thai politics


In response to widespread reports saying that Burmese migrants may join the anti-government rally in Thailand, Chiangmai based Shan workers organizations said that they have a strict policy not to intervene in their host country’s internal affairs because they are only “guest residents”.

On Wednesday, Thai officials imposed restrictions along the northern Thai-Burma border due to a report that migrant workers might join the red-shirt demonstrations against Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva during his scheduled (now cancelled) visit to Chiangmai on Saturday to attend the annual Thailand Chamber of Commerce meeting.

The Worker Solidarity Association (WSA) said that the group’s stand is non-interference. “We have warned our members to stay neutral and not to get involved with either red or yellow shirts because it is our Thailand’s domestic affair,” said Sai John, Chairman of the WSA. Likewise, Migrant Workers Federation (MWF) says one of its policies is not to engage in the political affairs of their host country. Its members have never taken part in any political activities in the past and will remain so in the future as well, according to its chairman Sai Aung Htay.

“We are only people fleeing from the heat of our country to seek sanctuary. We are not associated with any political group. If there are members who do not follow this policy, he/she should withdraw from membership,” he said. “As workers, our rights are to only ask for equal treatment from our employers and the government if we are not treated equally and get equal pay.”

According to Jeerasak Sukonthachart, Director of Thailand’s Department of Employment, if migrants are found among the protestors they would be repatriated to their homeland and their employers will also face trial.

He said that, according to Thai law, migrant workers are not allowed to join political demonstrations because it is illegal.

To this, a Shan elder responded, “Workers are hired employees. They can only do what their employers tell them to. They are not in a position to lead their employers. It is unfair to blame them for what is happening between the red and yellow shirts.”

Some Shan workers admit they were given red shirts by their employers for what purpose they were not told.

There are more than 2 million migrant workers in Thailand, at least one-third of whom are Shans, according to one estimate.

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