Myanmar migrants being exploited in Thailand

Agence France Presse

Bangkok, June 8:

Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand face a lack of basic human rights and are routinely abused, paid below the minimum wage, arbitrarily arrested and forced to live in unhealthy conditions, Amnesty International warned today.

The London-based human rights watchdog, in a report based on interviews last

year with 115 Myanmar migrants, said the Thai government has failed to address key problems faced by the labourers from the neighbouring country formerly known as Burma.

“They remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation, particularly to extortion and physical abuse, at the hands of smugglers, employers or the local police,” Amnesty stated.

Thailand, in a memorandum with Myanmar’s military government, has guaranteed registered migrant workers the same rights as Thai nationals. “However, in practice migrant workers are routinely not paid the legal minimum wage, nor are they permitted to enter into collective bargaining, both rights which Thai workers are in principle entitled to,” the report noted.

Shakedowns and arbitrary arrests were common, and the deaths of labourers attempting to flee Thai authorities have been reported, it said. Thousands of Myanmar migrants belong to ethnic minority groups from areas in internal armed conflict, and Thailand should ensure they are not sent back against their will as they would be ‘at risk of serious human rights violations were they to be returned to Myanmar’.

Thailand established a registration system for migrants in 2001.

Last year some 850,000 people from Myanmar registered, but tens of thousands more are

believed to be working in Thailand without documents.

Amnesty also criticised Thailand’s poor efforts to assess the impact of last December’s tsunami on Myanmar migrants.

Migrant support groups and the Law Society of Thailand estimate up to 2,500 Myanmar migrants went missing in the waves.

“There appears to have been no concerted effort to track missing Burmese migrant workers by the Thai authorities,” Amnesty said.