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Thailand looks to improve migrant workers’ living quarters

A son of a migrant fisherman from Burma rests in a hammock at a former shrimp warehouse where his family lives in Ban Nam Khem, a small fishing village on Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast, on 13 December 2014. (Photo: Reuters) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 13 OF 29 FOR WIDER IMAGE PACKAGE 'INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI - 10 YEARS ON' SEARCH 'DAMIR TSUNAMI' FOR ALL IMAGES - RTR4IMSL

Authorities in Thailand have pledged to study how to make living quarters for foreign workers better to improve their quality of life.

Department of Employment (DOE) director­general Singhadet Chu­umnart said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who chairs a committee to address issues regarding migrant and human trafficking problems, had assigned the DOE to spearhead the study. He was speaking after a committee meeting Monday.

The study will examine the living quarters’ sanitary standards, Singhadet said.

The study, which will also cover the legality of the living quarters along with potential investment and construction plans, is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the month.

Authorities will take aim at areas where the number of foreign workers exceeds 50,000, he said.

The pilot campaign will be carried out in 11 provinces, covering Chon Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, Samut Songkhram, Pathum Thani, Surat Thani, Chiang Mai, Songkhla, Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Rayong and Tak.

The study will also consider whether the development of living quarters can be done by the National Housing Authority, which has handled similar projects in Ranong and Samut Sakhon.

“Arrangements have to be made to provide sanitary living quarters,” said Singhadet.

“Their bedrooms must not be crammed. There should be air flow and enough clean toilets to satisfy the number of migrant workers.”

It is important to take care of foreign workers, not only regarding their wages, but also their living quarters, to improve their quality of life, he said.

According to observers, the campaign came after foreign workers were found to have rented rooms in various communities without proper monitoring.

Many cram into a room or a house and live uncomfortably there.

Some buildings were found to have sheltered an excessive number of people without proper management of drainage or rubbish collection.

The Monday meeting also extended the stay of foreign labourers in the fishery industry, whose work permits will expire from next month, to 1 November.

They cover 10,375 workers, whose permits expire by the end of this month, and 23,489 labourers, whose permits end on 22 February. Their children, aged 18 or younger, are also included.

The extension is necessary while the workers’ nationalities are verified by their respective countries, said Singhadet.

They are obliged to report to one­stop­service registration centres for migrant workers as well as various state agencies from 1 February to 21 March to have their permits extended.

As for foreign labourers on fishing trawlers which cannot come back to shore by the stipulated time frame, their employers must submit the worker name list to DOE offices in 22 coastal provinces instead.

When the workers return to port, they need to undergo medical checkups, secure health insurance and report to the authorities within 30 days, he said.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here.