Neighbors support Thailand’s efforts on migrant workers

Labor ministers from fellow countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) voiced support for Thailand’s new laws to regularize foreign migrant workers as five neighboring countries signed a Joint Declaration on Safe Migration last week, while the Thai government announced that over three quarters of a million migrants had signed up in the latest round of registrations.

The five signatories to the declaration were Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, known collectively as the CLMVT group. Of the five countries, Thailand is the nation that generally draws migrant workers from the others because of its more advanced level of development and stronger economy. More than 2 million migrant workers from those countries are estimated to be living and working in the Kingdom.

“Our collaborative effort to promote safe and orderly migration is to ensure that all the workers residing in Thailand can enjoy full legal protection and are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities as stipulated by the law,” said Sirichai Distakul, Thailand’s Minister of Labor.

The ministers from the five countries agreed that if each country’s government adopts the right legal measures they can ensure migration will be safer and in line with the laws of all countries in the region. The Thai government has been working with its neighbors to forge better cooperation and coordination on the issues so that migrants can be verified, documented and treated fairly.

“Each country [that signed the declaration] committed to proper actions in dealing with risks that migrant worker face. Participating countries also agreed to build a common mechanism in supporting migrant workers,” said Viet Nam’s Deputy Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Doãn Mậu Diệp, at the signing ceremony in Danang, Viet Nam.

Undocumented workers live and toil in the shadows of society and are more vulnerable to labor abuse, human trafficking and debt bondage. They cannot access basic social services that can protect them and help them build better lives.

From late 2014 through early 2016, the Thai government allowed undocumented migrant workers to register and receive official permission to work in the Kingdom. More than 1.5 million took advantage of the opportunity. The fluid nature of migration, however, led to the government recently opening a new window of time for more migrants to register.

Since the window was opened on July 24, employers had registered over 772,270 migrants, mainly from Myanmar and Cambodia, said Waranon Pitiwan, director-general of the Labor Ministry’s Department of Employment. The current window was closed on Monday. Over 100 registration centers were open around the country.