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2,500 Burmese migrant workers deported

A scene from Myawaddy on 30 June 2017 as the exodus of migrant workers from Thailand escalates. (PHOTO: DVB)

Nearly 2,500 Burmese migrants were deported yesterday from Thailand across the border to Myawaddy following a weeklong crackdown on undocumented workers.

Social welfare associations in the Burmese border town have been providing assistance to deportees. At 2pm on Thursday, the groups reported that they had recorded 2,385 Burmese migrant workers (1,457 males and 928 females) having arrived in Myawaddy on that day alone.

“Having been arrested or detained [by Thai security forces], some migrants fled across the border without extra clothes or money. I am heading now to Myawaddy to deliver some donations of money to help them get back to their hometowns,” said Ashin Sanda Zawtika, a Buddhist abbot from the Sasana Nwe Foundation in Moulmein.

“I am told that more migrants will cross into Myawaddy tomorrow as well,” he told DVB by telephone on Thursday evening. “But I do not know how many. Some people say that the Thai authorities prefer to conduct deportations on Tuesdays and Fridays. We want to be ready to help them.”

Some migrants who crossed to Myawaddy yesterday and in the preceding days have already been transported back to their homes across the country. Others are currently sheltering at a facility assigned by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in Myawaddy.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s caretaker Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has reacted to the crisis, which was apparently enflamed by a police crackdown on migrant workers following stricter labour laws introduced in the country.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Waranon Pitiwan, the director-general of Thailand’s Department of Employment, said, “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has instructed us to loosen the labour migration laws to some extent, since the new executive decree on the recruitment of foreign workers imposed harsh penalties, with fines ranging from 400,000-800,000 baht [US$12,000-$24,000]. This new law has outraged both workers and employers. We note that small and medium enterprises such as production workshops, construction sites and domestic work are likely to face labour shortages.

“In accordance with Premier Prayut’s instructions, a migrant worker can now apply to change their employer’s name if the name is different to that typed on their current work permit. The fee for this service will be as low as 100 baht [$3]. During the process of making any changes to work permits, the migrant worker shall be exempt from arrest.

“When obtaining labour identification cards under the Memorandum of Understanding between Thailand and Myanmar, the validity of the cards will be extended and the government of Thailand will issue a visa and work permit. Also, those migrants holding temporary passports will also be given work permits to take up jobs here in Thailand.”

Waranon continued: “In the first two months that the labour migration law has been enforced, we are likely to see labour shortages. However that will be resolved over time. Registered migrant workers will replace the undocumented ones.”

Since the stringent new labour law was passed in Thailand on 23 June, an exodus of mostly Burmese, Laotian and Cambodian migrant workers has been ongoing.

 

Additional reporting from Thailand by Nang Mya Nadi.