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Migrant labour

Many falsely identify themselves as Myanmar nationals

Direct contracts between employers and recruitment agencies urged

The National Security Council (NSC) has discovered that some 50,000 Chinese and Vietnamese illegal migrants falsely identified themselves as Myanmar citizens during the nationality-verification process, the Mahidol Migration Centre revealed.

"These people are in fact Vietnamese and Chinese who have been working in Thailand. We are conducting a study on this," Assoc Prof Krittaya Artwanitkun, an academic at the centre, said yesterday at a workshop on labour migration.

The workshop attracted about 70 participants, including Thai employers, Myanmar workers and representatives from several organisations including Myanmar recruitment firms.

According to the Mahidol Migration Centre, 733,603 alien workers have already undergone a nationality-verification process. About 167,991 others have already registered themselves with Thai authorities, but their nationality has yet to be verified.

These figures are in addition to the 93,265 alien workers who have come to Thailand under the memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed between the Thai government and neighbouring countries.

"We have no clear records of how many illegal migrant workers are here in Thailand," Krittaya said.

However, she added that most Myanmar, Laotian, and Cambodian workers in Thailand were unskilled labour. "Only 2,068 come under the skilled category," she added. Her centre is part of Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research.

She said records from the Department of Provincial Administration show that there might be some 3.5 million alien workers based in Thailand at present.

"However, there is a possibility that some figures are overlapping," Krittaya pointed out.

She added that the Thai government did not have a consistent policy on labour migration, which led to several problems. For instance, alien workers fall prey to illegal agents, who charge them more than is necessary to get them jobs in Thailand. Many migrant workers have also complained that Thai police have extorted money from them and their employers do not provide them with reasonable welfare.

"If employers do not register our names with the social-security scheme, we will have no access to welfare at all," migrant worker Than Lwin said.

Taweesak Homchan, who represented Laotian workers at the workshop, said there was a case in which an alien worker lost a finger in an accident at work, but had to fight hard to get assistance from relevant authorities.

Dr Wah Wah Sein from Myanmar's Today Top Star Consultancy Group proposed that Thai employers enter into contracts with Myanmar-based recruitment firms to boost transparency and efficiency in labour migration.

"Let's educate workers right in their home country about the benefits they will get before they leave home for work," she said, adding that direct contracts will also protect workers from illegal agents.

Thanasak Kijrungroj, vice chairman of Thailand-based Sea Wealth Frozen Food, agreed.

"My firm has been doing this and the results are good," he said, adding that previously his company had problems with bad Myanmar workers provided by uncertified agents. "About 160 of the 1,000 hired would hardly do any work and would drink all day," he said.


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