Thailand has announced a Thingyan [water festival] gift for Myanmar migrant workers. Those heading home for the April holiday can do so without paying travel fees, and without fear of arrest, according to a recent decree.
The fee waiver applies to migrant workers holding temporary passports and temporary work permits called “pink cards”; who otherwise face travel restrictions.
The fee waiver will take effect on April 5 and will be valid through April 30, according to Labor Attache U Moe Aung Khaing, from the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok.
“They [migrant workers] will get stamps on their passports and other documents [at the border crossing] upon leaving and entering [Thailand]. But they will not have to pay a visa fee or any other fees,” he told Karen News on March 28. “There are six [border crossing] points that they can pass through [for the waiver]. For the pink card holders, they will need [recommendation] letters from their respective employers and local authorities. When they return [to Thailand], they will have to bring the letters with them.”
In the past, migrant workers with temporary passports were charged 1,100 Baht (US$31) by the Thai immigration offices for stamps to travel between countries. Pink card holders are not allowed to travel outside of the province where they are employed unless accompanied by their employer. Ordinarily for these workers, travel back home runs the risk of arrest and deportation. Those taken to the border for deportation are often subjected to a 1,500 or 2,000 Baht ($43-57) fee in exchange for their release.
“In the past, the pink card holders could not travel back home so easily. But now, as this government permits, everyone is happy to go back home,” said Saw Ah Hla, a Myanmar citizen working in Bangkok.
Nearly 700,000 Myanmar workers in Thailand hold pink cards under a scheme that was meant to regularize the status of undocumented workers through a series of verification steps. The process, which has been ongoing since 2014, has stalled several times and has yet to produce regular passports for the workers.
Between 2 and 4 million mostly undocumented Myanmar citizens are estimated to live and work in Thailand, providing the backbone of the low-skill, low-wage economy.
Translated by Aong Jaeneh
Edited by Laignee Barron for BNI