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Ineffective Protection of Migrant Labour as a Migrant Worker Died Unprotected

By Labor rights groups  •  August 15, 2011

Since 2009, a number of migrant workers from Burma have undergone nationality verification process and become legal migrant workers in Thailand. In almost two years of the implementation, the policy has been set out clearly by the Royal Thai Government to pursue the legalization process and to ensure that migrant workers passing through the nationality verification attain equal rights to their Thai counterparts, particularly regarding social security.

For more than six months, Mr. Thu Wen Go had become a legal migrant worker from Burma in Thailand after undergoing the nationality verification process. His employer had been legally changed to Southeast Asian Packaging and Canning, Co. since April 2011. On 2 August 2011, Mr. Tuwengo suffered a head injury after his fall and had been receiving treatment in the ICU of Vichaivej International Hospital, Samut Sakhon (Srivichai 5 Hospital). But after checking his right to medical treatment, the Hospital found he was not eligible to use his social security rights since his employer had failed to register him under the social security system. Thus, he was supposed to cover his own medical expenses. After a few days of hospitalization, his relatives were forced to discharge him on 8 August 2011 since they could not afford more than 120,000 baht of incurred medical expenses. Two days after the discharge, he passed away.

Assurances have been made by the Ministry of Labour that migrant workers who have undergone nationality verification and obtained work permits are legal migrant workers and are eligible to various rights including those under social security system. Also, it requires by law that an employer of at least one employee has to get the employee registered under social security system within 30 days since the employment starts. This also applies for the case of migrant workers after their nationality verification process and obtaining the permits to work in Thailand. But the incidence shows though the employee has obtained a legal status to work here, but the employer failed to pursue his legal responsibility. The practices have continued unchecked by any authority. As a result, the policy announced by the state to provide protection and promotion of the rights of legal migrant workers lacks real enforcement. And though the migrant workers have become “legal migrant labour” in Thailand, they continue to be vulnerable to the loophole in the system and to the exploitation and the evasion of legal responsibility by their employers.

“The incidence indicates a problem, a gap in the system to uphold the rights of migrant workers in Thailand. The Social Security Office (SSO) has to step in to look after the case since it seems the employee was supposed to enjoy his rights to social security, but his employer simply failed comply with the law. SSO is supposed to compel the employer to act according to the law and should not just leave the employee to bear with the responsibility like in this case. SSO is obliged to set out a clear policy of inspection and punishment to prevent any occurrence of such an incidence” said Mr. Sawit Kaewwan General Secretary of the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC).

To ensure genuine protection of migrant workers in Thailand and to prevent another occurrence of such a tragedy, the undersigned labour organizations and NGOs working with migrant workers hereby make following proposals to the Ministry of Labour;

  • The MoL and SSO have to ensure strict enforcement of the Social Security Act including setting out clear policy and guidelines to encourage the registration of migrant workers under social security system. Such information should be disseminated among employers, migrant workers, and concerned agencies to engender clear understanding. And an effort should be made to punish any employer who fails to register his/her migrant employee with the SSO.
  • The SSO should coordinate with hospitals and other concerned service agencies to ensure that migrant workers can enjoy fully their rights as provided by law.
  • The Ministry of Public Health must ensure that hospitals do not refuse any patient medical treatment simply based on his or her lack of affordability to cover the expenses since the right to medical treatment is a fundamental human right.

Signatories

State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC)
Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC)
Council of Work and Environment Related Patient’s Network of Thailand  (WEPT)
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Foundation for AIDS Rights (FAR)
Action Network for Migrants (ANM)
Stateless Watch (SWIT)
Migrant Worker  Rights Network (MWRN)
Migrant Workers Federation (MWF)

For information, please contact
Mr. Sawit Kaewwan General Secretary, State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC): 086-336-1110
Ms. Preeyaporn Khankumnerd, Project Coordinator, Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), 086-340-8390
Sein Thay, Field Staff, Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), 083-013-9736

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This post is in: Press Release

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