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Illegal migrant workers in Thailand granted work permits

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One-Stop Service Center in Samut Sakhon (Photo: Ko Kyaw Thiha)
One-Stop Service Center in Samut Sakhon (Photo: Ko Kyaw Thiha)
Minn Lyon – This past Monday, Thai authorities opened a new center for illegal migrant workers staying in Thailand to register for work permits. The center, the first of its kind in Thailand, was opened after the military took control of the country.

The center opened in Samut Sakhon with the goal of providing one-stop service for Burmese, Cambodian, and Lao migrant workers to register for temporary residential status, known as Tor Ror 38/1 (TR.38/1) and work permits, in efforts to properly monitor the country’s migrant labor population. The one-stop service center is open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

“[Issuing] TR. 38/1 [cards] is good for migrant workers”, says Ko Kyaw Thiha, an advocate for Burmese migrant issues, “The advantage of it is that it is not expensive, and you can get work permits [with that card] in one day. And, unlike applying for passports, it does not take a long time to apply for and get [the] TR, 38/1. Also, Thai [factory] employers also like this. In the past, migrant workers applied for passports with this TR 38/1.”

Ko Kyaw Thiha notes, however, that there are disadvantages to the TR 38/1. For instance, according to a Thai government delegate at a recent meeting of labor affairs, TR 38/1 holders are not allowed to move to other provinces for work. If they do so they face arrest, a 500 baht fine, and are sent back to the province they registered in.

According to Burmese migrant workers, they can apply for TR 38/1 with support of their employers. For migrant workers 18 years and above, they must pay 80 Baht for the TR 38/1, as well as 500 Baht for a medical check, 500 Baht for three-months of health insurance, and 225 Baht for work permit cards which signify that they are allowed to legally work in Thailand; totally 1305 Baht. For migrant workers under 18 years of age, they are not allowed to apply for work permits, so they will only have to 1080 Baht.

Work permits issued out of the new Samut Sakhon center are only valid for two months; work permits registered on Monday are valid until August 29, and must be verified by that date.

According to Burma’s state-run newspaper, Myanmar Ahlin, in order to receive a one-year work permit, applicants must pay 80 Baht for the TR 38/1, 500 Baht for a medical check, 1300 Baht for one-year of health insurance, and 1200 Baht for a one-year work permit; totaling 3080 Baht.

“There are two kinds of Burmese migrant workers [in Thailand]. [The] first one is migrant workers of MoU (Memorandum of Understanding), who come to Thailand through the border with a passport, and with both countries’ agreement. [The] second one is the migrant workers who [are] illegally smuggled into Thailand and hold the temporary passport provided in 2009. This [one-stop service for work permits] is for the migrant workers [who fall] in [the] second [category]. It is nothing concerned with migrant workers [who fall] in the first category and come to work [in Thailand] through the MoU,” said Ko Htet Khaing, who works for migrant workers issues.

Burmese migrant worker Ko Maung Maung explains, “Whatever it is; passport, visa, or work permit, we (migrant workers) can only apply for it if we have [an] employer. We should understand this and consider this. We can do nothing if we do not have an employer. After we get this [passport or work permit], we have to work for our employer. And if we work for other employers, we would get arrested.”

The goal for this one-stop service, provided by the Thai military regime, or the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), is to register illegal migrant workers with work permits to end human trafficking and exploitation, in addition to curbing corruption practice of government officials, who extort money from illegal migrants in exchange for smuggling them into Thailand and delivering them to locations where they are told to get jobs.

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