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Migrant Workers Must Be Protected and the Thai Government Must Comply with ILO Convention 19

By State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation, Thai Labour Solidarity Committee and Human Rights and Development Foundation  •  September 21, 2010

The Royal Thai Government (RTG) ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Equality of Treatment [Accident Compensation] Convention 1925 (C-19) on 5th April 1968. C-19 requires each member state of the ILO that ratifies this Convention to grant to nationals of any other member states which have also ratified this Convention and who suffers personal injury due to industrial accidents happening in its territory the same treatment in respect of work accident compensation as it grants to its own nationals. This equality of treatment shall be guaranteed to all migrant workers without any condition as to residence. Myanmar also ratified ILO C-19 in 1927.

Migrant workers from Myanmar (and their dependents) who suffer accidents or are killed at work in Thailand continue to be officially denied access to rights and protection from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund (WCF) however. Officials justify this denial of fundamental rights to migrants on numerous grounds, all of which reveal discriminatory treatment against these migrant workers when compared with protection provided to Thai workers who can access the WCF.  This policy of the RTG to deny migrant access to the WCF clearly breaches Thailand’s obligations as a signatory to ILO C-19.

The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) and the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) have utilized the Nang Noom Mae Seng test case as a central part of our campaign to show most clearly the impact of the RTG’s denial of WCF rights to migrant workers from Myanmar, and in our attempt to pressure the RTG to adhere to C-19. But officials of the RTG continue to ignore this campaign and our demands. SERC, as an affiliate to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), therefore petioned the Director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department on this issue during the 98th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The RTG’s adherence to C-19 was duly considered by the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations and the Committee issued a report during the 99th Session of the ILC requesting the RTG to urgently adhere to its obligations as a signatory to C-19.

Over 2 million migrants from Myanmar are one of the most exploited and vulnerable groups in Thai society working in more dangerous, dirty and difficult conditions to other workers from which they frequently incur work accidents and disease. Many of these workers have also fled deep political and economic conflict in their homeland. HRDF alone has documented over 200 Myanmar migrants’ work accidents in the past few years and this is from their work in only two of Thailand’s 77 provinces. Although official statistics are unavailable, it would not be unreasonable to estimate that thousands of migrants from Myanmar incur work accidents each year in Thailand and many more suffer or will in the future suffer work diseases. All are denied access to work accident compensation from the WCF.

The RTG seems to have decided that setting up a separate work accident compensation fund or setting up a private insurance scheme to provide insurance to these migrant work accident victims is the solution to address challenges posed by their failing to access work accident compensation. Such a scheme would be managed by private companies with adjudication on compensation conducted by WCF officials. Neither SERC nor representatives of migrants from Myanmar were consulted on these plans.

SERC considers that plans to set up a separate and privately managed fund or insurance scheme to provide accident, sickness, disability and death compensation benefits to migrant work accident victims from Myanmar (and their dependents) is a worrisome development because it appears that the RTG is abandoning the principle of providing non-discriminatory access to the WCF. There are allegations, which have not yet been confirmed given the opaque and non-participatory nature of the decision making process surrounding these plans, that suggest benefits to be received by migrants under such schemes may be less than those received by Thai work accident victims through the WCF. SERC considers such planned measures are illegal under the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1994, which provides access to the WCF to all “workers” irrespective of nationality.

SERC, TLSC and HRDF request that the RTG urgently act to ensure that the rights of both Thai and migrant workers are protected equally in accordance with Thai labour laws without distinctions and exceptions, especially those
based on nationality. This will ensure that the RTG adheres to fundamental principles encapsulated in ILO C-19. Protecting migrants equally alongside Thai workers will also ensure that in the future our Thai nation is not exposed internationally as a nation that immorally benefits from the suffering of migrant workers from Myanmar who flee into our country in search of a better life. For if such a situation was to occur, Thailand would rightly be rejected for acceptance by countries and communities around the world.

State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC)
Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC)
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
21st September 2010

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This post is in: Press Release

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