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Govt urged to ease medical, school access for migrants

Many workers from neighbouring states unable to get health coverage

THE GOVERNMENT must make changes to its health and education policies in order to help migrant workers access the kind of educational and medical services that are available to Thai citizens, the Migrant Working Group said yesterday.

According to the group, 493,324 migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have registered with the Thai government since January, but only 253,519 of them can access the healthcare services provided by the state health-insurance agencies.

Migrant workers have to pay about Bt600 for health checks and Bt2,200 for health insurance.

While the government has a policy to allow migrant workers to buy health insurance and access medical services, there are many obstacles to their being able to get treatment at state hospitals.

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, a coordinator of the Migrant Working Group, said he found that many state hospitals did not sell health insurance to migrant workers, as the hospitals are worried about the impact on their finances. Some hospitals only sell health insurance to migrant workers who have registered with the government and hold the proper legal documents.

Some hospitals collect additional fees from migrant workers for extra treatment, he added.

Moreover, some migrant workers do not want to buy health insurance because they do not believe they can spare the money. Some opt to go to private clinics near their workplaces instead of going to a hospital, as some clinics provide translators.

Not eligible for pension

Migrant workers also faced difficulties accessing social and medical benefits under the Social Security Fund. To date, about 210,668 migrant workers have registered with this fund. To qualify for age-pension benefits, a person must have been a member of the fund for more than 15 years.

Under the law, however, migrant workers are only allowed to stay in Thailand for four years.

Mongkol Suwansirisilp, a deputy director of the Foundation for Rural Youth, said migrant children also face obstacles when trying to access education at state schools, as they do not have citizenship documents.

The foundation estimated that about 300,000 migrant children live in Thailand with their parents, but only 56,582 of them can access state schools.

Migrant children are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and being forced to work in factories, the foundation said.

According to a report published by the US government last year, about 29 factories in Thailand were found to have used child migrants as forced labour.




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