Thai / English

The 'forgotten' million

Huge number of undocumented migrants face extortion and abuse in Thailand

02 Jan 13
The Nation

Over a million Myanmar migrant workers living in Thailand still have not received temporary passports and are being forced to pay extortion money to regional authorities to continue their stay, according to officials of the Education and Development Foundation in Thailand.

"At the moment, 1.5 million migrant workers have not been registered while another 1.5 million workers have been documented. "The undocumented workers are paying extortion money to regional authorities while some live under the protection of their bosses. But there are also those who are living normally," said Htoo Chit, a senior advisor of the foundation.

Many of these "forgotten" Myanmar migrant workers are being paid far less than the Bt300 per day that the Thai government has specified as the national minimum wage.

Reports say that many Thai businesses have been hindering the documentation process as they do not want to pay the required minimum wage to their workers after they have been registered. Many Myanmar migrant workers reside in poor, industrialised areas of Bangkok and in Ranong and Chiang Mai. Myanmar's Ministry of Labour announced last February that it had issued temporary passports for over 1.23 million undocumented migrant workers in Thailand.

The problem of undocumented workers is being exacerbated by people-traffickers, who smuggle Myanmar citizens by boat into Ranong and other border towns.