Long delays in getting temporary passport hurting Burmese migrant workers

Burmese migrant workers say delays of up to six months in processing their temporary passports so they can get a legal work permit to allow them to work in Thailand is causing them to be harassed by police.

“I applied to get temporary passport at an agent based in Mae Sot. The agent said the process would take only a month, but now it’s already taken five to six months,” explained a Mae Sot based 40-year-old Burmese migrant worker.

The worker said.

“I first tried for a temporary passport when the process started in 2012, but I haven’t got it yet. I hold a one-year work permit. The agent gave me a reason that the name in my ID card did not match with the name I gave.”

A Karen worker who is still waiting for his documents said.

“I applied five months ago. I haven’t got it yet. I paid fifteen thousand baht. Some workers have got theirs. I would like to know the exact date I will get mine.”

Workers say that despite having a temporary passport holder they were still stopped and questioned by Thai police and fined while travelling in Thailand.

The Thai Labor Department at Mae Sot state that Burmese migrants who want to work in Thailand must apply for a temporary passport and work permit before December 14, if they do not have legal documents action will be taken.

Ko Htway Naing, a legal officer at the Yaung Chi Oo Association, an organization that advocates on behalf of workers’ rights, said.
“When we asked the agents about the delays getting a temporary passport, they told us that they cannot give an exact date. They explained that it depends on more than one department to process the documents.”

Applying for the temporary passport, a worker needs to have a one-year work permit and has to pay up to 15,000 Thai baht to get a six-year temporary passport and a two-year work permit.

By applying through work agency the costs are around 5,000 to 8,000 baht, plus 1,900 baht for health insurance to get an extension of the work permit, another 1,000 baht for the labor office and for some workers 1,500 baht to be paid to the employer in helping out with the process if the workers can’t do it on their own.

Thai authorities have said that as of December 14, workers in Thailand who have not applied for a temporary passport would be fined 5,000 baht and could be sentenced to five years jail under section BE2522 of Thailand’s legal system.

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