Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Burmese junta profits at the expense of 1.3 million migrant workers in Thailand

by Weena Kowitwanij
The two governments agree to clarify the procedures for registration of Burmese people in Thailand. The Burmese junta has so far claimed the withdrawal of the documentation at home to monitor illegal departures from the country. Threats to the families of workers who must pay bribes of up to 2 thousand dollars for the issuance of a certificate. By 28 February, the migrants must prove their citizenship, under penalty of expulsion from the country.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Negotiations between the Thai government and the Burmese junta are underway to allow more than 1.3 million migrant workers from Myanmar to prove their citizenship to Thai authorities by the 28th February. This is to avoid deportation and abuses by the Burmese junta, which to date has profited from the situation forcing migrants to pay up to 2 thousand dollars in bribes for issuing a certificate.

"It is up to the employer to register staff at district offices," said Jirasak Sukhonchart, Director General of the Thai Department of Employment during his recent meeting with the Burmese consul in Bangkok. "According to our sources – he continues - the Burmese authorities are threatening the families of migrants and forcing them to pay large sums of money for issuing certificates." He says he contacted the government offices in person, explaining the facts as reported by migrants in order to avoid further abuse.

In July 2009, Thailand asked all foreign workers to certify their citizenship before 28 February 2010. This is to monitor the situation inside the country, where in addition to the Burmese approximately 780 thousand Laotian and 620 thousand Cambodians work.

For citizens of Myanmar the certification process has never been clear. To date, only 20 thousand workers have proven their citizenship. The agreements between the two countries so far have planned the issuing of a certificate of citizenship for migrant workers in Thailand by the Burmese government. But officials of the junta are demanding the documents be withdrawn at home instead of delegating the procedure to the embassy. This is to be able to verify the number of people who fled the country illegally and force them to pay an additional fee. Another problem is the granting of citizenship to children of foreign workers born in Thailand. Their registration depends on that of their parents and neither the Thai government nor Myanmar want to recognize their status as citizens.