World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT), a children’s rights advocate, revealed yesterday that around 60,000 babies of migrant workers are born in Thailand every year, but only a fraction of them get a birth certificate that would give them access to basic rights such as education and healthcare.
At a forum “Birth Registration, Health and Social Issues of Myanmar Migrants in Thailand” held yesterday at Mahidol University’s Salaya Campus, WVFT director Sarawut Rachasrimuang said both migrant workers and Thai authorities lacked proper understanding about birth certificates. Every child born in the Kingdom is entitled to a birth certificate regardless of the parents’ legal status.
“Thailand has adequate laws that address these rights,” he said. “However, migrants lack the knowledge of what they are entitled to and are afraid to contact the authorities.”
Hence, WVFT has launched the Empowering Civil Society Organisations for Protection of Migrant Children (ECPMC) project to improve the situation. The European Union is one of the sponsors of this project.
Working primarily in Ranong, Chumphon and Tak provinces, the foundation and its partners, including Mahidol University, provide training to migrant workers to raise awareness on government services. Thailand currently has more than 4 million registered migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
Lacking proper legal status, migrant children born in the Kingdom tend to go unrecognised and do not get the rights they deserve, the foundation’s director explained.
Adisorn Keadmongkol, coordinator of the Migrant Working Group Thailand, added that while Thailand has good legislation and policies on immigrants, failure in implementation is the key issue.
“Children will be properly protected only if we raise awareness,” he said. “It is only by working on this project and ensuring that migrant children are given their rights, that we will be taken seriously at the regional level.”
Another migrant-rights advocate, Surapong Kongchantuk, said registering births does not just ensure that every child has access to education and healthcare, it also translates into better record keeping, resulting in better administration. “It is only when we keep record of how many people, and who, are in the country, that we will be able to provide better administration,” he said.
Surapong reiterated that related laws are already in place, but state authorities sometimes lack understanding and have a negative attitude towards migrants.
Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Thailand Pirkka Tapiola, who gave the keynote address, called on the government to be more responsible towards migrant workers.
“If we compare the situation to 20 years ago, the number of migrant workers in Thailand has grown dramatically,” he said. “This has been a consequence of a very positive development, which is called economic growth. You don’t really have unemployment in Thailand. This means Thailand needs migrant workers.”
He went on to say that once Thailand has a large number of migrant workers, and they have children, the country has the responsibility to protect them by providing identity, education and healthcare. This does not mean it’s an investment in other countries, he said.
“It’s an investment on the future of your own society. It’s an investment in integration. It’s an investment in social welfare.”