Wed 21 Jul 2004
Filed under: News,Regional
Registration for Thailand’s alien workers just got easier. The Thai Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare announced on Wednesday that illegal migrants no longer need their employers or landlords to accompany workers to district offices to fill out the registration forms.
Foreign workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos have been allowed to register for official work permits from July 1 to 31. But complicated registration procedures and high fees have opened room for job brokers to exploit alien workers. Thus, many workers have chosen to avoid registration. The low turnout during the first half of the registration period has caused the Thai Labor Ministry to ease restrictions.
“I have been looking for a broker to pretend he is my employer because I want to register for a work permit in Thailand,” said Nan Win, an unemployed Burmese migrant in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. She added that it is easier to pay off a broker to facilitate her registration than to find a job.
Of the roughly one million migrant workers in Thailand, 80 percent are from Burma. The new registration policy will allow migrant workers to seek health coverage under the Thai national healthcare system. They should also be eligible for work permits at the end of the registration period, entitling them to full labor protection.
They also have the right to seek a new job if they wish. As a result, employers are reluctant to pay and register their workers, fearing that migrants might quit their jobs after obtaining a registration card. Previously, employers paid for registration and deducted the amount from the workers’ salaries.
“I have to pay the broker 2,000 baht (US $48) to pretend that he is my employer,” said Nan Win. “I also have to spend 3,800 baht to register. But I can’t afford that.”
Pranom Somwong, of the Thai-based Migrant Assistance Program, said that as of July 18, roughly 560,000 workers had registered for work permits.