Sunday, December 20, 2009

Migrants in Chiang Mai join International Migrant Day

by Usa Pichai
Saturday, 19 December 2009 18:05

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Migrant workers joined International Migrant Day functions on December 18, in Chiang Mai and Bangkok urging the Thai government to permit them their own labour organization.

They wanted protection for domestic workers with labour laws and pointed out that accessing medical services is still a major problem for migrant workers.

Northern Workers Network, a group of NGOs working with labour and migrant workers in the northern region of Thailand, led by Migrant Assistant Program Foundation on Friday submitted a petition to Chumporn Saengmanee, Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai province, who oversees labour issues in the area aimed at improving rights and working conditions of migrants.

“The government should have a regulation ordering employers to pay wages for migrants workers on the minimum wage rate, which is 168 Baht on the same scale as Thai workers. Migrant workers should have rights to set up their own labour union,” according to the petition.

The workers also urged the government to include domestic workers in the Thai labour system, where they should be protected by laws. Earlier the Thai authorities did not recognize this as an occupation. Many have to register in other kind of jobs.

In addition, the groups noted in their statement that the government must not discriminate against migrant workers, while accessing compensation in the event of injury, sickness or death while working.

Chumporn Saenmanee, Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai said that the Thai government is trying to improve regulations for migrant workers to match international labour laws. However, the worker should follow the law strictly to prevent problems.

The activities including, exhibition regarding work safety, labour rights, health care and cultural events were organized for the workers to have an understanding of the issues and create space for them to participate and strengthen their social network. Several hundred workers mostly Shan ethnics from Burma joined the event.

In Bangkok, labour activists also organized a forum on migrant and health issues. It was found that a majority of migrants living with HIV could not access antiviral drugs.

Supatra Nakapiw, Director of the Foundation for AIDs Rights said at the conference that migrant workers have an important role in Thai economics and whether they had passed nationality verification or not, their health should be protected by the health welfare system.

“Medical services for migrant workers should be of the standard, which is the same as that of the Thai people. Currently, they could not access antiviral drugs. This includes pregnant workers that would increase the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child. The government should find a solution and rework the system,” she said.

Activists both in Chiang Mai and Bangkok are also concerned about the controversial nationality verification process for migrants from Burma. They asked the government to have transparency and ensure participation of related partners including employers and workers.