Labour activists blame Burma for a failure in the Thai-Burmese joint effort to legalise illegal migrant workers from that country through citizenship verification.
Than Doke, of the Tak-based Burma Labour Solidarity, said the joint effort between the two governments to verify the nationality of the workers who have illegally entered Thailand failed because the Burmese government does not care about the plight of its people. The Memorandum of Understanding on Employment Cooperation signed between the two neighbours in 2003 came to a complete halt in September last year.
"The real problem is that Burma is not interested in solving the problem of migrant workers," he alleged.
Vasant Sathorn, director of the Labour Ministry's Bureau of Illegal Migrant Workers Management, said Burma insisted the migrants must return to the country for the verification process, brushing aside Thailand's request that it fields its officials on Thai soil to carry out the verification, similar to what Cambodia and Laos are doing.
He said the registration of illegal migrants from Cambodia and Laos is expected to be completed by June next year thanks to good cooperation from the two countries.
Moe Swe, secretary-general of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, said while Thailand and Burma have yet to agree on permanent measures to deal with the problem, Thai authorities should consider allowing individual migrant workers to register themselves, instead of having their employers do it for them.
"Employers or the factory owners usually violate basic labour rights of these workers as they can hold necessary documents like work permits as hostage for the stay of the workers," he said.
Labour activists plan to submit their proposals from their recent workshop on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers in Asean countries to the Foreign Ministry today.
The proposals are to be forwarded to other ASEAN nations which have adopted a framework on migrant workers at the Asean summit in Cebu, the Philippines, early this year.
Adapted from: "Burma blamed for verification process failure." The Bangkok Post. 2 August 2007.
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