Thu 12 Jan 2012
Filed under: On The Border
A move by the Thai government to verify the millions of migrant workers from Burma has done little to improve conditions, a migrant advocacy group claims, with many still denied health insurance by employers.
Both the Thai and Burmese government have backed the National Verification Process that will award status to migrants whom to date have lived a life in limbo, largely unable to access healthcare and the workplace rights awarded to Thai citizens.
Over 700,000 people have been registered so far, but the Human Rights and Development Foundation says the same problems persist for the majority. Sein Htay, the group’s coordinator, estimates that only 50,000 migrants are officially listed with the welfare department.
“The rest have no labour privileges whatsoever,” he said. When using the previous migrant ID cards, they had been entitled to the 30 baht ($US1) healthcare scheme introduced under former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, but the registration process effectively cancelled this privilege.
“In a way, they have become like the illegal migrant workers. Now they have to cover their own medical expenses and such,” said Sein Htay.
Under Thai law, the employer must cover five percent of the worker’s social security fund, but Sein Htay said that many employers are reluctant to pay the extra money.
“The current issue we are facing is that employers are refusing to take responsibility for their workers and denying them compensation [when they get injured at work]. And the workers can’t afford to sue their employers as court cases may take months or even years and there’s no guarantee that they would win the lawsuit,” he said.
Migrant workers can lodge complaints with the Labour Affairs Department, but many are unaware of their rights.
The majority of the country’s estimated three million-strong migrant workforce work in industries such as construction, fishing and manufacturing, where the potential for injury is high. Average daily wages are thought to be little more than 100 baht.