News / Asia

    Thailand Takes Steps to Combat Migrant Labor Exploitation

    Thailand Takes Steps to Combat Migrant Labor Exploitationi
    X
    Steve Herman
    June 30, 2014 2:44 PM
    Thai army officials acknowledge that corruption, as well as a lack of enforcing laws against human trafficking, have led the kingdom to be branded as one of the worst offenders for forced or exploited labor. As the country tries to clean up its image and keep workers valuable to its economy, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Samut Sakhon where authorities are establishing “one stop” centers for registering migrant workers.

    The chief of staff of Thailand's army showed up on opening day at a new "one stop" center that documents foreign laborers.

    The high-profile visit demonstrates the importance the country's military junta attaches to combating human trafficking.

    Thailand has been branded one of the worst global offenders when it comes to forced or exploited labor. The kingdom is trying to clean up its image while retaining the migrant workers who are valuable to its economy.

    About 2,000 people, mostly from Myanmar, were photographed, fingerprinted and X-rayed, and gave urine and blood samples at the center in Samut Sakhon. In exchange, they received a temporary labor identification card. If they pass the background and medical checks, they will be certified to continue working in Thailand.

    Thai Army Chief of Staff, Geneneral Sirichai Distakul, speaks at the opening of a one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)Thai Army Chief of Staff, Geneneral Sirichai Distakul, speaks at the opening of a one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    x
    Thai Army Chief of Staff, Geneneral Sirichai Distakul, speaks at the opening of a one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    Thai Army Chief of Staff, Geneneral Sirichai Distakul, speaks at the opening of a one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)

    ​An estimated 200,000 Cambodians have fled Thailand since the May 22 coup, fearing a crackdown on all foreign labor, legal or undocumented.

    The junta blames the panicked exodus on corrupt Thai officials spreading rumors so they could extract payoffs from the Cambodians when they eventually returned.

    Army chief of staff General Sirichai Distakul calls it all a big cross-border misunderstanding.

    “We’ve allowed some of them to return [without passports] because entrepreneurs will have trouble running their businesses if these workers are not here,” he said.

    Construction worker Sam Phai was among the minority of Cambodians who did not flee.

    “I didn’t want to return home. I knew it would be very difficult to return here if I did," he said. "I want to continue working here. My employer told me that I could stay in Thailand if I get this new card. That will allow my boss to prevent the police from taking me away if there is a raid.”

    Workers prepare for an influx of registrants inside the one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)Workers prepare for an influx of registrants inside the one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    x
    Workers prepare for an influx of registrants inside the one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    Workers prepare for an influx of registrants inside the one-stop center for foreign laborers in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, June 30, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)

    The expectation is that this new system, in military fashion, will instill order and honesty. Immigration officials tell VOA they expect to convert 90 percent of the undocumented foreign laborers in Thailand to legal status.

    “On the whole, if we follow the process, there will be no corruption," said Athit Boonyasopat, governor of Samut Sakhon. "At the provincial level, we’re adhering to the policy set by the National Council for Peace and Order [military junta]. It’s quite transparent.”  

    Myint Aung, who is from Rakhine state in Myanmar and has been working on construction projects in Thailand for two years, has high hopes for the new system.

    “The old system was corrupt," Myint Aung said. "We had to rely on brokers to get us identification cards. But the police would still shake us down for bribes when we showed the card. I heard the new ID card will be more helpful and secure.”

    Another incentive for utilizing the new system: an amnesty for undocumented workers who register and no punishment for their employers who bring them to the one-stop centers.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora