Labor Right Groups Urge Migrant Workers to Get Legal Papers as Thai Government Extends Grace Period

Migrant workers in Thailand are advised to get their status legalized while there is still time to do so. Burma labor activists urged migrant workers to get the necessary legal documents during the three-month period of suspension of the Thai law on illegal migrant workers.

U Moe Kyoe, director of Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA), told Karen News that Thai authority initially had announced the suspension of the BE 2017 labor law for six months, from July to December. On November 10th the Thai authority again extended the suspension period to March 2018.

“People should not be complacent, thinking they still have a lot of time. The people who have already have documents should check if they are completed. The people who are working on registration also should check if the job described in the documents is the same as their current job. The people who have no documents should ask their employers to get them documents and inform the labor office,” U Moe Kyoe advised.

According to Thai government sources, the aim of this extended suspension of the labor law is to give time for illegal foreign workers without documents or incomplete documents to make complete legal documents, to have their ‘real’ employers on the documents and to get loans from their employers in advance, if necessary, to cover the cost.

The BE 2017 Thai labor law that was released on July 22, employers and employees who fail to comply with the labor law can be sentenced to five years in jail or be fined as much as a 100,000 baht. The immediate enforcement of the law resulted in many workers being arrested. As a consequence, many Burmese migrant workers returned to Burma in their thousands leaving many work place empty. The law was later suspended.

The suspended labor laws contain clauses that relate to the arrest of illegal workers under section 101, the arrest of employers who employ illegal workers under section 102, section 112 is about providing shelter to illegal workers, and section 119 about the illegality of working without work permits.

Ko Thar Kyi, managing director of the labor activist KTG group told Karen News, “People who don’t have a citizen card should urgently go back to Burma and get one during this suspension period. A citizen card is needed to make a passport. It is more convenient for people who have no documents to get MoU documents because the MoU system is the only system recognized in the Thai-Burma agreement.”

Ko Thar Kyi also warned that there is a risk of human trafficking and fraud if people use agents instead of the MoU system.

Saw Kyi who works as ceiling installer in Bangkok is confused about his current work status.

“I use a purple passport. It will expire in March. I don’t really understand how to renew it. My employer manages it.”

Saw Kyi said that he may return home because of the confusing situation and the cost for renewing his documents.
“To be honest, I am thinking if I should renew my passport or just go back to my village to work because getting the documents is very costly.”

Labor activists estimated that there are around three million documented and undocumented Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.

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