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Thai Labour Leader Petitions ILO in Geneva: “Systematic Abuse of Myanmar Migrant Workers in Thailand Breaches International Law”

By State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand  •  June 13, 2011

Today (13th June) at 9am (GMT +1), Mr. Sawit Keawwan, General Secretary of Thailand’s State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), petitioned the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. In a letter submitted to the ILO’s Committee of Experts, SERC stated Thailand is systematically violating international law by failing to protect rights of migrant workers from Myanmar. SERC contended domestic mechanisms to challenge this exploitation, including court systems, had failed. Despite protests by the ILO and the United Nations, the Thai Government continued to systematically discriminate against and allow for gross abuse of migrant workers from Myanmar in Thailand.

Alongside SERC’s detailed petition letter to the ILO, Mr. Keawwan also submitted over 500 pages of supporting documents to explain how systematic discrimination against migrants from Myanmar prevails in Thailand. SERC focused on the Thai Government’s denial of Myanmar migrant access to the Social Security Office’s Workmen’s Compensation Fund. Migrants who are injured or fall sick as a result of poor workplace safety are denied access to work accident compensation as a result of Circular RS 0711/W751. In 2010, ILO’s Committee of Experts and United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Migrants and Discrimination urged the Thai Government to ‘review’ this Circular quickly and allow all migrants direct access to the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. Instead, tomorrow (14th June) the Ministry of Labour is to request the Cabinet to approve the setting up of a separate and less beneficial private insurance scheme to compensate ‘migrant’ work accident victims separate from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund.

Mr. Keawwan said from Geneva: “Despite SERC demanding equal rights for migrants in Thailand for many years, our Government continues to systematically violate migrant rights in breach of international law. But the Thai Government is bound to comply with the ILO’s Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation) Convention 1925 (C-19). The Ministry of Labour’s plan tomorrow to seek approval of the Cabinet to set up a private insurance scheme to compensate ‘migrant’ work accident victims is vague and ill thought out. Importantly, policies that claim greater protection for migrants’s basic labour rights but which differentiate migrants from Thai workers remains blatant discrimination.”

The Thai Government’s policy to deny migrant access to the Workmen’s Compensation Fund continues to impacts severely on an estimated 2-3 million migrants from Myanmar working in Thailand who remain at high risk of work-related injuries and disease. The denial of their coverage under the Workmen’s Compensation Fund leaves many migrants who are severely injured at work with no financial assistance.

“Migrant work accident victims deserve guaranteed State remedies through the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. Employers cannot be trusted to provide remedies themselves as in many cases reported to SERC, employers run away from or ask police to arrest migrant work accident victims to avoid responsibility. A private insurance system which provides less beneficial and distinct coverage to migrants is completely unacceptable and also discriminatory. All migrants in Thailand, regardless of nationality, must be entitled to the same labour rights as Thais. It is time all migrants are given the same protection when injured on the job as Thai workers”; said Mr. Keawwan from Geneva.

*The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC) is a confederation of 43 state enterprise unions in Thailand representing over 170, 000 members and affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

For more information on this statement, please contact:

  • Mr. Sawit Keawwan (General Secretary, SERC): +41 7676 57807 (GENEVA) (Thai only)
  • Mr. Somboon Sabsarn (Advisor to SERC):  +66 813 520035 (BANGKOK) (Eng/Thai)
  • Mr. Andy Hall (Translator to Mr. Sawit Keawwan): +41 7677 24652 (GENEVA) (Eng)
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This post is in: Press Release

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