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Activists urge government to create migrant workers centre

The Human Rights Commission of Thailand has asked the Thai Labor Ministry to establish a legal aid center to assist migrant workers whose legal rights are abused. Sunee Chairot, an HRC labor rights expert, said the legal rights of many migrant workers in Thailand have been abused by both employers and government officials.

“It should be a clear system that can check up on the employers on whether they follow the rules or not,” Sunee said during a migrant workers conference in Bangkok on Monday.

The “National Seminar o­n the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers” was organized as a follow-up to the Asean declaration on migrant workers’ rights, signed by Asean countries in January.

The declaration committed member states to protect the fundamental human rights of migrant workers, promote their welfare and uphold their dignity. The countries also pledged to take concrete measures against human smuggling and trafficking and to introduce stiffer penalties.

Thailand’s Minister of Labor, Apai Chandanachulaka, said Thailand agreed to follow the agreement’s regulations.

“The involved countries have to protect the rights of Thai workers in their countries, and the government also has to protect migrant workers in Thailand–which covers work permits, wage rate and basic human rights.” Apai said.

In addition, migrant workers should be able to access the legal process, and the government should establish workable rules governing migrant worker documentation, Apai said.

In Thailand, there are about 2 million migrant workers, both legally and illegally, from the neighboring countries of Burma, Laos and Cambodia.

Recently, the government has expressed concern over the dropping number of migrant workers registered with the Labor Ministry. Currently, about 500,000 migrant workers are registered so far this year; in 2006, the number was about 700,000. Some observers say the lower number is the result of tighter government restrictions o­n migrant labor.

Rights activists have raised concerns, particularly over decrees in some provinces that prohibit migrant workers from using mobile phones without an employer’s permission, gathering in a group of more than five persons or leaving their dwelling during the night.

The conference was jointly organized by the Ministry of Labor and the International Labor Organization.


By Sai Silp
July 10, 2007

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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