The migrant workers will face mass deportation at the end of February. The Royal Thai Government (RTG) has set out a policy that approximately 1.4 million registered migrant workers in Thailand must apply to go through a process of nationality verification (NV) before February 28, 2010 – and for the 80% of these workers who are from Burma, this means they must cross back into Burma and undergo verification at NV offices controlled by the SPDC military government. Needless to say, these Burmese migrants remain quite frightened and highly reluctant to enter the NV process.
Burmese migrants’ ‘illegal’ entry into Thailand results from difficulties experienced by the Royal Thai Government (RTG) and the Burmese military junta. Since the 1990s, the RTG has annually held 30-day registration periods for ‘illegal’ migrants to register and receive amnesty to work in Thailand ‘legally’ for one year, pending deportation. This process has been costly for migrants, bureaucratic for employers and reliant on exploitative and unregulated brokerage systems. Furthermore, migrants with ‘legal’ permission to work in Thailand are still, in practice, denied basic rights like work accident compensation and freedom of movement, on the basis of their ‘illegal’ entry.
In 2004, the RTG and the Burmese military junta signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing for nationality verification of ‘illegal’ Burmese migrants already working in Thailand so that they could become ‘legal.’ The process was never implemented. In late 2008, RTG announced that no migrants would remain ‘illegally’ in Thailand after 28th February 2010. A final 30-day amnesty for unregistered migrants was allowed in July 2009 during which 1 million migrants registered. RTG then announced all registered Burmese migrants in Thailand must undertake nationality verification by means of a complex 13-stage process involving Thai employment offices, the Burmese Embassy in Thailand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Burma and Thailand, and National Verification and Processing Centres in three border crossings in both Burma and Thailand. According to the RTG, all registered Burmese migrants in Thailand have until Feb 28th 2010 to enter nationality verification or face deportation.
Information is spreading in migrant communities on these processes but the RTG has not yet conducted public relations campaigns with migrants, NGOs or labour organisations. Certain ethnic groups, especially Shan and Karen, are increasingly fearful of providing personal information as rumors of negative effects on their families surface once this information reaches the Burmese junta. Rumors are spreading that Burma intends to catch political activists through the process, and Muslims are excluded. The NV process is costly, complicated and not transparent. Some migrant workers, to date, have not started the process due to various reasons from high costs to lack of knowledge of the NV process. RTG’s only plan for migrants who do not go through the NV process is deportation.
The campaign is focused for the safety of over 2 million migrants from Burma, Cambodia and Laos working in Thailand who may face deportation after 28th February 2010. Over 80% of these migrants originate from Burma and face ethnic and political conflict as well as continuing economic deterioration in their homeland, which is controlled by a military government.
(23/02/2010 – 24/03/2010) Thailand
The Campaign is focused for the safety of over 2 million migrants from Burma, Cambodia and Laos working in Thailand who may face deportation after 28th February 2010. Over 80% of these migrants originate from Burma and face ethnic and political conflict as well as continuing economic deterioration in their homeland, which is controlled by a military government. Most migrants from Thailand’s neighbouring countries entered Thailand without documentation, but are permitted to work temporarily pending deportation by the Royal Thai Government (RTG). This temporary permission has been extended on a year to year basis in recognition that migrants fill important gaps in the labour force and strengthen the Thai economy. On 19th January 2010, the Thai Cabinet issued a resolution linking extension of migrant work permits to nationality verification (NV). For over 1.3 million migrants who received permits during 2009 and are willing to submit biographical information to their home governments prior to 28th February 2010, they will receive permission to remain and work in Thailand until 28th February 2012 so NV can be completed. However, migrants who do not enter NV and all undocumented migrants (estimated to be around 1 million persons) shall be deported after 28th February 2010. We appreciate the importance the Thai government attaches to enacting workable migration policies and we support exploration of ideas such as NV for formalising irregular migration flows between countries. But we also believe migration policies must be carefully planned to ensure protection of migrants; human rights. For this reason, we are deeply concerned the Cabinet’s 19th January 2010 resolution responds neither realistically nor appropriately to the situation of migrants in Thailand.