Burmese workers return home after harsh new migrant law enacted

Migrant workers are uprooting themselves from Thailand in response to the junta's new migrant law that imposes huge fines for unregistered workers and their employers.
 
On 3 July 2017, Jetn Sirathranont, a whip in the junta’s National Legislative Assembly, said that the Royal Decree on Managing the Work of Aliens, which went into effect on 23 June, will be submitted to the NLA for final approval in the near future.
 
In response to concerns that the new law will put an excessive burden on migrants and employers, the NLA whip said the junta is seeking leniency by using its absolute power under Section 44 of the Interim Charter to add a provisional section to the new law. 
 
On why an emergency decree had to be issued instead of an act as normal, Jetn said it is an urgent issue that relates to the “government’s stability”. Junta head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has stated that the law’s goal is to eliminate human trafficking in order to restore Thailand’s human rights credibility.
 
According to Thai PBS, the junta plans to invoke Section 44 this week to postpone for 120 days the implementation of three problematic sections. 
 
These sections are Article 101, which sentences unregistered migrant workers to five years imprisonment and a 100,000 baht fine; Article 102, which sentences employers to a 400,000-800,000 baht fine for each unregistered worker; and Article 122, which requires employers to officially report to government agencies whenever they hire a new migrant.
 
Since the law was put into effect, large numbers of Myanmar migrants have continued to return to their country and employers have consistently raised concerns. 
 
Samphao Sukklang, an employer in Rayong Province, told Thairath that ideally she wants to hire migrant workers legally but the registration process is complicated and time-consuming. She added that some of her workers already applied for a work permit but the process is very slow so she had to hire them illegally. Some workers whose registrations are incomplete have to travel back and forth between Thailand and Myanmar to get the required documents. 
 
After the new law was imposed, half of Samphao’s workers decided to go back to Myanmar to avoid legal prosecution. Some workers who decide to return Myanmar told the media that they were glad to go home but unsure if they will come back to Thailand or not due to fear of the new law. Some said that they will definitely not come back since they can now seek jobs in Myanmar. 
 
 
Migrants in Samut Sakhon queue up for work permit registration in 2014