The Myanmar and Thai labor ministers reached an agreement on Friday to issue official documents to Myanmar workers allowing them to work legally in the neighboring country two weeks after new Thai labor regulations took effect under which undocumented migrant laborers can be expelled.
The laws, which aim at tackling human trafficking concerns raised by the international community and resolving the growing problem of undocumented migrant workers in Thailand, caused an exodus of more than 60,000 foreign workers—many from neighboring Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia—fearing arrest.
The regulations, which went into effect on June 23, impose heavy fines on both Thai employers and foreign workers who lack work permits.
Thein Swe, Myanmar’s minister for labor, immigration and population, told reporters after his meeting with Thai labor minister General Sirichai Distakul in the capital Naypyidaw, that authorities in both countries will work together to ensure that Myanmar workers are documented to work legally in Thailand by rechecking their statuses between July 24 and August 7.
There will be no cost for the service for workers, and Myanmar will open six additional offices to issue certificates of identity (CI cards) to Myanmar laborers so they can work legally in Thailand, he said.
“Thai authorities will not take action against Burmese workers any more, even if they have no documents or incomplete documents,” Thein Swe said on Thursday.
“If authorities find undocumented workers, they will ask their bosses if the workers are employed at their businesses or not,” he said. “If they are, authorities will let these workers register [for proper documents],” he said.
Mobile teams of Thai authorities will issue CI cards for Myanmar migrant workers who cannot readily return to Myanmar because of long distances, he said. The mobile units will also work on Sundays, the day of the week when migrant workers have off.
“Then, Thai authorities will send us their registration documents, and these workers will be legal workers after we issue them passports or other legal documents,” Thein Swe said.
More than 180,000 of 3 million Myanmar workers have already been issued CIs, he said.
Still heading to Thailand
Of the estimated 5 million Myanmar citizens working in Thailand, about 2.2. million have proper documents, Thein Swe said after his first meeting with Sirichai Distakul on Wednesday.
Roughly 43,000 undocumented Myanmar workers have returned home from Thailand in the past two weeks, though Thai authorities have delayed full implementation of the law until the end of the year to allow those without proper documents to get the necessary paperwork at home.
Last week, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told reporters that migrants affected by the new regulations could continue to work temporarily, pending verification of their identities.
The influx of Myanmar nationals returning from Thailand has overburdened social agencies and swamped border crossings, Myanmar officials said.
Thai authorities are allowing only about 100 people per day to go from the border crossing in the town of Ranong across from the Myanmar town of Kawthaung on the southernmost tip of the country in Tanintharyi region, state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
While thousands of workers return home to obtain the legal documents they need to legally work in Thailand, about 500-1,000 more are heading to Thailand each day under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries, the Myanmar Times reported, citing Aung Kyaw Myint, assistant director from the immigration ministry.
“If we send Burmese workers to foreign countries, we will send them under the MOU,” Thein Swe said on Thursday.
“Myanmar will work on decreasing human trafficking, and Thailand has to work on having good and real business owners,” he said.
Thein Swe also said Myanmar has sent workers to South Korea and is still in discussions with the Japanese government about sending them to Japan.
Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.