MMN on Bangkok Post:Alien Working Act a breach of human rights, say critics

MMN, Action Network for Migarnts(Thailand) and Thai labour Solidarity Commitee(TLSC) co-organized “National Consultation on Alien(Migrant) Worker Act B.E.2551 and it affects on access to decent work for Migrant Workers” on June 15th in Bangkok.

Bangkok Post, June 17

The Alien Working Act, which came into force on Feb 22, is prejudiced, unconstitutional and a breach of human rights, activists said yesterday.

Laddawan Tamafu, a coordinator of the Mekong Migration Network, said the law focused on national security and the economic benefits for business operators. It was passed without any public hearing.

She warned the act would fan divisions. Rewards are offered for the arrest of unlicensed migrant workers and officials can conduct a search without obtaining a court warrant, which she saw as unconstitutional and a violation of human rights.

The act is aimed at capping the alien worker quotas through the issuance of work permits. Employers are required by law to deduct money from alien labourers’ wages for the extradition fund.

”Most alien workers get paid less than the minimum wage. The fund contribution would take a heavy toll on them,” Ms Laddawan said.

Peng Luemsiaw, a coordinator of the Aids Access Foundation and a Cambodian, said: ”We are not criminals. We only want a job, a better life and money to take care of our family. The law prescribes harsh punishment _ five years in prison for working without a licence.”

Under the act, unlicensed migrant workers face a maximum of five years’ imprisonment or a 100,000 baht fine, or both. A migrant worker who fails to carry a work permit could be fined up to 10,000 baht.

Surapong Kongchantuk, of the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand, pointed out that while unlicensed alien workers face harsh prison terms, the employers had been spared.

For example, employers hiring unlicensed workers are exempt from criminal charges. However, employers will be fined 10,000-100,000 baht for every unlicensed worker.

He said the act allowed labour ministry officials to arrest, fine and extradite alien workers, which he said should be the work of the Immigration Bureau.

He said the levy imposed on employers of alien workers and collected for work permits would be for communal benefit.