Migrant Worker Rights Network submitted an open letter to Daw Aung Suu Kyi (A-May Suu) in Yangon on 10 Dec requesting her urgent help on Thai mass deportation threats and Dec 14th Thailand migrant deadline.
Monday 10th October, 2012
Dear Mother (A-May) Suu:
The Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) is an organisation of workers from Myanmar formed in Thailand by migrant workers themselves.
As you may know, December 14th 2012 is the deadline for issuing temporary passports to migrant workers in Thailand through the Nationality Verification (NV) process. After that date, all irregular workers will be deported according to Thai Law and policy. Both undocumented workers and workers who did not complete the process of issuing temporary passports will become ‘illegal’ workers on December 14th. The Thai government has already declared many times that millions of irregular workers will be arrested and deported back to Myanmar on this date. Although the Deputy Minister of Labour from Myanmar, U Myint Thein, negotiated with the Thai government in order to extend the deadline, this negotiation process was not successful as Thailand said it was sticking to its deportation plan. MWRN are therefore very much concerned about the fate of millions of migrant workers from Myanmar after the 14th December 2012 deadline.
Every worker who already has registered for Thai migrant worker documents would like to apply for a passport and complete the NV process in reality. But these workers still face many problems that result not from their own behaviour but the dishonesty and abuse of Myanmar and Thai government officials, employers and recruitment agencies/brokers. Although many employers and brokers have taken money and documents from migrant workers for some time already, workers still did not yet actually get a passport. These workers miss the opportunity to remain legal by no fault of their own. The fault lies with government officials, employers and brokers.
Almost all migrant workers from Myanmar in Thailand don't want to work illegally and anonymously. Although workers would like to follow Thai Law, they can only survive according to the time and situation they are in. Every one of us would like to obey the Law if we could and if we were given the right. Not only has the Thai government acted wrongly but also suffered for using irregular workers. Also workers ourselves have suffered significantly as a result of working illegally.
Every day ethnic minority persons from Karen state, Mon state, Thanintharyi region and Shan state also illegally migrate into Thailand. If the concerned authorities both in Myanmar and Thailand implemented a systematic labour exchange and migration programme, this problem would be solved automatically. There are workers possessing a passport (in accordance with MoU agreements between Thailand and Myanmar) who are working in Thailand. Although the MoU process has advantages for workers, this process too faces many problems. The government of Myanmar and Thailand should ensure implementation of the MoU more effectively. The existing MoU still has drawbacks for regular migrant workers. One of the vivid weaknesses is that the workers cannot change their employer within a 2-year contract. The workers who are working under exploited employers are still facing many problems, too often amounting to trafficking in persons and debt bondage.
If policies are implemented in accordance with the multiple announcements of the Thai government, the process of arresting and deporting irregular workers after December 14th should be transparent with respect for human dignity. Arresting and extorting (taking money) from the irregular workers, as generally happens during arrest and deportation processes, is not the way to solve the problems of irregular migration in accordance with the rule of law. Most of the deported workers on a day to day basis already face many problems with brokers at the border areas of Myanmar and Thailand, particularly at Mae Sot-Myawaddy. If the Thai government will deport workers, its officials should also for once also transparently handover the workers to the Myanmar government with respect for their human dignity.
But at the same time, Thailand is a country whose economy depends significantly on foreign labour. If the Thai government genuinely arrested and deported as many workers as it claims it will on December 14th, the Thai industry will face a significant shortage of labour. MWRN therefore suspect that the deportation of irregular workers and the imposed deadline is suspicious and will not be carried out systematically.
If the Thai government postponed the 14th December deadline with respect to humanity of millions of migrant workers, the needs of employers, employees, the government and a systematic MoU process would be enhanced. We encourage that bilaterally both Myanmar and Thailand should arrange systematic migration practices that benefits both of their citizens and their respective countries.
If both governments fail to fulfil the needs of workers, after the December 14th deadline the irregular workers will certainly face the following problems:
1. They will not be paid minimum wages according to Thai Law
2. They will not receive adequate health care
3. It will be difficult for them to get compensation for workplace accidents
4. They will be systematically abused by officials, gangsters and brokers
5. They will live a daily life in fear of arrest and abuse
6. Transportation will become very difficult
7. They will need to pay significant under the table costs to officials
8. They will be forced to pay extra recruitment fees
Even now before 14th December 2012, the cost of applying for a temporary NV passport is already very expensive and extortionate in practice, despite the theoretically low costs. After 14th December, evidence suggests the costs of regularisation will become even more prohibitive for us migrant workers.
MWRN, on behalf of all migrant workers in Thailand, therefore would like to request Mother (A-May) Suu to be our guide and our strength to push for adopting the more effective and systematic migration processes between Thailand and Myanmar. We ask Mother Suu to assist us by negotiating on our behalf to the Myanmar and Thai governments.
With Deepest Reverence.
Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
10th December, 2012