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ILO urges Thailand to set up national database to safeguard the rights of migrant children

Thailand needs to set up a national database on migrant child workers for their safety and ensure each and every one of them is registered, the local International Labour Organisation (ILO) office said at a recent seminar.

Thailand is obliged to have migrant children registered and build a database after it ratified the 182 ILO Convention in 2001. Under the convention, member nations are required to safeguard migrant children's rights, efficiently track their records, work with the private sector to carry out all relevant implementation and have up-to-date progress reports and evaluation of all projects, acting ILO country director Mauricio Busci said.

Labour Ministry permanent secretary Jeerasak Sukhonthachart said Thailand's handling of related problems, especially in the shrimp-processing industry, had improved a fair bit and the United States now included the Kingdom in the list of 10 countries that have "made good progress and effort" in relation to the issue.

Citing a report by the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, Jeerasak said 19,074 migrant child workers were registered in 2011, and 14,972 of them in the following year. Also 50,239 migrant children were found to be part of the social-service welfare system, and 20,465 in the following year.

According to the National Statistics Office, some 227,013 children were employed in 2011, but the number dropped to 189,633 the following year, especially in terms of youngsters between the ages of 15 and 18, he said.

ILO official Aphichaya Nguan-banjong said some 80 to 90 per cent of the member countries in the Asean region had already set up such databases, and Thailand should do the same, adding that with such information at hand, migrant parents could be encouraged to enrol their children in Thai schools.

However, she added, issues such as Thai parents' attitude that their children should not attend classes with "alien" children and migrant parents' belief that their children come to Thailand to work, not get educated, urgently need to be addressed.

The ILO and communities in Samut Sakhon have set up schools to provide classes, both on general subjects and Thai, Myanmar and English languages, for migrant children. Some 3,500 children are being educated at these ad hoc schools and another 5,000 of them will be added to this educational system this year, she said.

Another seminar was held simultaneously on Thai authorities' roles in protecting migrant workers - both adult and young ones. Thee Phawangkharat, a senior official from the Office of Basic Education (Obec), told the seminar that the agency had set up shelters in 225 education areas. Also, he said, of the migrant children surveyed, Obec found that 114 of them had been forced into slave labour and another 61 into prostitution. They have all be rescued and taken into shelter.

So far, there are 405,453 migrants under the social-service welfare, while another 500,000 are waiting to become members.

Theerada Sutheerawut, a senior Public Health Ministry official, said that government officials should shoulder the annual health costs totalling some Bt300 million as well as cover the 33,319 children born to migrant parents last year.


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