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Migrant workers must not be left behind amidst the pandemic, says CSO

Statement from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) calling the Thai government to provide Covid-19 assistance packages to migrant workers without discrimination.

Workers in a construction site, taken on January, 2019

General Prayut Chan-o-cha has signed an Order issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (No.25), dated 27 June 2021, concerning the closure of construction sites, a ban on restaurant dine-ins, partying, and restricting shopping malls hours to 9 p.m. The order was announced in the Government Gazette and will be effective for at least thirty days.

Subsequently, on 28 June 2021, Center for Covid-19 Economic Situation Administration (CESA) announced the remedies for entrepreneurs, employers, and employees affected by the Order issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (No.25), According to the CESA announcement, employees who are affected by the closure will be compensated requiring 50% of wages, up to 7,500 Thai Baht, if they are social security insurers. The remedy includes workers in construction sites, whose works have been suspended. Thai workers will receive an additional 2,000 Thai Baht. A worker who is not an insurer in the social security system shall receive 2,000 Thai Baht compensation. Workers must register for the cash hand-out via the governments e-wallet Pao Tang" application. Therefore, only workers holding Thai national ID cards will be eligible for the cash hand-out remedy. 

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) considered that nearly the past two years, the government has ignored the proper administration of migrant workers, Despite the government should have acknowledged that migrant workers are especially vulnerable to Covid-19 infection from crowded living conditions.

The requirement under Order issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (No.25) does not only negatively affected construction workers or restaurant workers, but all workers in all restriction areas (i.e. Bangkok and the Greater Bangkok and the Four Southern Provinces) also suffer the consequences. The Department of Disease Control states that, as of June 24, 2021, there are at least 48,135 migrant workers who have been tested positive for Covid-19 but have not received proper medical treatments.

Migrant workers have been retrenched as a result of economic stagnation. At the same time, the government remedies, from past to present, clearly demonstrate the government's discriminatory attitude and practices towards migrant workers. For example, migrant workers are not eligible for Rao Mai Ting Kan (Leave no one behind) 5,000 baht cash hand-out program for non-social security insurers. Migrant identification cards do not meet the technical function of the cash hand-out registration requirement. Article 33 Rao Rak Kan (we love each other) assistance package for social security insurers only allow Thai nationals to access the remedy. HRDF sent a letter opposing this practice (see also: http://hrdfoundation.org/?p=2507 )

On the 10 March 2021, Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Don Pramudwinai stated at the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) at the UNESCAP Auditorium in Bangkok. He recognized migrant workers are essential contributors to economic growth and partners for sustainable development who must not be left behind during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Don Pramudwinai ensured that migrants will receive proper assistance and because no one is safe until everyone is safe.

However, the contrast between the statement from the Thai governments representative and the actual administration of the pandemic situation for migrants prompted the HRDF to call for the Thai government to commit and to implement the following recommendations. 

  1. The government should ensure migrants receive fair and equal treatment when they are suffering from Covid-19. Migrants should not be treated with any discrimination. They shall be treated as employees” under the Labor Protection Law. Whether the workers are enrolled under the social security system or not.
  2. The government should ensure a short-term proactively Covid-19 tests to all migrants without discrimination of their statuses and The government should ensure migrant workers have access to Covid-19 vaccination in the same manner as Thai workers. Most importantly, migrant workers diagnosed with COVID-19 must be treated immediately.
  3. The government should formulate a medium-term plan and a long-term plan for the management of migrant workers, including but not limited to non-prosecution against migrant workers under the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979), and the Royal Ordnance on the Administration of Foreign Workers B.E. 2562 (2019). The government should arrange for the registration of migrant workers without causing unnecessary financial and administrative burdens to employers and migrant workers.  

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