Thai labour rights groups call on National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to review the measures for controlling migrant workers

Following a "migrant workers regularization operation” by the Thai National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), suspect premises where there might be illegal migrant workers are being searched and demolished. It concerns different migrant workers, for example from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, who are without valid immigration documents or work permits, or who have expired passports. Thousands of them are now gradually leaving Thailand. This has a direct effect on the Thai economic security, because the country is facing labor shortages in the manufacturing and agricultural sector.

Thai labour rights groups call on National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to review the measures for controlling migrant workers

Following a "migrant workers regularization operation” by the Thai National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), suspect premises where there might be illegal migrant workers are being searched and demolished. It concerns different migrant workers, for example from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, who are without valid immigration documents or work permits, or who have expired passports. Thousands of them are now gradually leaving Thailand. This has a direct effect on the Thai economic security, because the country is facing labor shortages in the manufacturing and agricultural sector.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has seized power in Thailand on 22 May 2014. Now, it is almost a month that the NCPO has issued many orders and announcements. As of 16 June 2014,  there were 68 orders/announcements. Particularly, Order No 59/2557 and Order No  60/2557, regarding the administration of migrant workers problems by representatives from the security sector and civil officials to sit as committee members and the committee to address the migrant workers problem.

The Migrant Working Group and the undersigned organization have monitored the situation and noted that before the NCPO has issued Order No.  59/2557 and Order No.  60/2557, dated 10 June 2014, security agencies and civil officials, under the name of "Provincial Internal Security Commands Operation" (P-ISOC)  in some areas have informed the press that there is an operation called "migrant workers regularization operation" using searching and surrounding of suspected premises where there may be migrant workers working in Thailand. Additionally, a number of migrant workers had faced soft deportation.  According to our information, there have been many group of migrant workers arrested, such as migrants without valid immigration documents and work permits; migrants with passports but their work permits indicate different workplace that the current place they has been found and arrested;  some migrants possess expired passports and work permits. It has been found that houses where migrant workers were suspected to reside have been demolished. In some case, the operations tended to violate the child protection measure, under the Thai child protection law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Thailand is the state party.

The news of the recent regularization of migrant workers make them afraid. They are at risk of arrests. Thus, hundreds of thousands have started to gradually migrate out of Thailand. The phenomenon has a direct effect to the Thai economic security because the country is facing labor shortage in manufacturing sector and agricultural sector.

Agencies solving the labor shortage problem have addressed it through migrant workers registration to enable workers from Myanmar, Laos PRD and Cambodia to work legally in Thailand. Thai and origin governments also addressed undocumented migrant worker issue by introducing of the nationality verification process, so that the migrants can have valid travel documents and work permits.  The Migrant Working Group found that the Thai government had attempted to address  labor shortage problem and, at the same time, the government has addressed the national security issues by increasing the attempt to regularize migrant workers.

The following measures were the success for migrant workers administration. Migrant workers problems need more steps forward to address important problems, namely, migrant workers who have passed the nationality verification process; workers employed through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Thailand and the neighboring countries,  which set a term of employment for two years at the time, extendable for not exceeding two years. In 2013, there were  over 200,000 migrants whose the employment period were over four years (Letter from Ministry of Labor No. RorNgor  0307/2443, dated 17 March 2014 to the Secretary-General to the Cabinet). The Ministry of Labor has addressed the labor shortage and alleviate the problem of migrants who had reached four years of employment period and are overstaying in Thailand,  that put the migrant workers at risk of arrest and employees facing lack of labor force, by proposing a Cabinet's Resolution to allow migrants whose employment term are reached, to stay as a special case for 180 days or until the new functioning government will be taking the office.  The measure enables migrant workers to have  apply for and receive visa extension and obtain work permits, as stipulated in the process to be further determined by the relevant agencies.  Over 200,000 migrants whose four year employment terms were expired can be protected from arrests and forced repatriation if they are in the process of renewing their visas and  work permits, according the the official's processes.

The arrest, search and surrounding of the cordon and the massive flows of migrants back to their sending countries have direct impact to the migrant workers administration policy and good relationship with nationals from the neighboring countries. Despite many agencies and the NCPO  have confirmed that there would not be any acceleration of arrests suppression and crackdowns of migrants. Nevertheless, migrants and a large number of entrepreneurs  are not confident with the Thai policy. In certain case, it was reported that some employers laid-off over 200 migrants, fearing that they would violate the law. Additionally, there is a case injury and death of Cambodian migrants, in a road accident  while the migrant were traveling to Cambodian border.  It was found that some migrants and local child victims who were  on the road at the same time near the scene sustained injuries from gunshot wounds.  The above phenomenon reflects lack of integration,  limitation of civil officials to address the migrant worker issues, which is very complex and requires some time to address, thus, it may present an obstacle for the NCPO to bring peace and economic reform.

Demands & recommendations

The Migrant Working Group (MWG) and the undersigned organisations request the NCPO to urgently consider the following demands and recommendations.

  • Stop the crackdowns, arrest and suppression of migrant workers. Impose clear operational measures and policies to be used as a guideline for officials in local areas to follow in a unified manner. Issue and announce to security agencies and civil agencies to exercise caution in their operation to crackdown illegal migrant workers because some of them are in the work permit renewal process after about 200,000 workers' permits will reach four years term.
  • Issue an urgent measure to build trust among migrant workers and entrepreneurs that the regularization measures will not affect employment to prevent the outflow of the migrant workers, who received the rumor that the NCPO regraded as not accurate.
  • The NCPO should restructure the committee to address the foreign workers' problem. The committee member should have representatives from relevant bodies that employ migrant workers  from different groups, namely, employers,  representative from migrant workers, the academia and the civil society sector, to have well-rounded insights and perspective from the and reflect practical resolution that can be implemented so that it will preserve the economic security, stability and relationship between Thailand and neighboring countries.
  • The past situation indicated that security-oriented measures alone cannot address the migrant workers problems. The NCPO and the committee should affirm to administrate migrant workers by encouraging process of migrant regularization, as in the previous path along with other measures such as border employment, with a view that embraces a balance between the national security, economic development and migrant workers protection.

With respect to human rights and human dignity,

 

1. Migrant Working Group (MWG)

2. Action Network for Migrants (ANM)

3. Legal Clinic, Diocesan Social Action of Surathani Catholic Foundation

4. Cross-ethnic Integration in Andaman, Phang-Nga

5. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

6. Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN)

7. Stateless Watch

8. Prorights Foundation

9. Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)


Source: Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)