Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Thailand, Foreign Workers are Treated Like Slaves

Thailand tightens rules for migrant workers

03/24/2007 | 03:34 PM

Foreign workers in Thailand face stricter rules on assemblies, mobility, use of cellular phones among other restrictions, as some provinces have rammed up security measures.

Thailand hosts some 13,000 land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), based on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Labor Assistance Center’s actual departure records from 1998 to 2005. But independent estimates said the number could reach 20,000, including those undocumented ones.

In an email message sent to GMANews.TV, the Migrant Forum in Asia, a regional network of non-government organizations, associations and trade unions of migrant workers, said that some provinces have tightened some rules on foreign workers as concerns about border security heightened.

Somjet Khantikul, a provincial labor official of Thailand, was quoted saying that the provincial committee on security and peace and order has agreed to the enforcement of such measures.

The measures include a ban on public gatherings of more than five alien workers, registration of mobile phones, and a nighttime curfew starting at 10 p.m., Mr. Somjet said.

However, the rules would remain flexible, labor officials had told the Bangkok Post. Those who need to do activities during curfew hours or work irregular hours, can do so with special permission.

As part of the effort to monitor migrant workers’ movements, employers are reportedly required to make a list of alien workers, including mobile phone numbers and serial numbers of SIM cards and forward them to provincial authorities.

Mr. Somjet reportedly said that the restrictions were old rules that have been loosely enforced so far, adding that the committee has debated possible violations of fundamental rights and believes the restrictions will not lead to any rights violations.

Several provinces, including Surat Thani, Chumphon and Phuket, have also launched a similar campaign.

Wasant Sathon, director of Immigrant Workers Administration Office, said provincial authorities have imposed the restrictions.

Labor-rights activist Sompong Sakaew has urged caution on the implementation of certain measures, saying these may step on human rights of migrant workers.

''For example, the authorities should not throw a curfew blanket and should impose a curfew only in crime-infested areas,'' he said.

''The cell phone ban should not be applied because they (cell phones) can also be used to report abuses or seek help from the state, non-government organizations or others,'' he said.

There is something about these types of measures that rub me the wrong way.

First, if foreign workers are such a threat to national security, then why allow them into the country in the first place?

We know the answer: Cheap, exploitable labor.

But, according to recent news reports, Thailand's economy is on the brink of collapse with the stong Baht and the slowing economy. The government just announced that it needs to stimulate the economy, by, get this, providing tax incentives to Thai manufacturers to move their factories overseas.

If all the panic about the slowing economy was justified, wouldn't the government want to keep foreign workers out to give jobs to Thais?

But, of course, no Thai would want to work for less than a dollar a day doing crap work, so it is better to import laborers from Burma, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines, who don't even receive the most basic human rights.

Ironically, how come there is no outrage from human rights groups, labor organizations, NGOs, and other political organizations who make it their duty to save the world from the evils of western globalization? Their silence is deafening.

Why is it that these professional anti-globalization activists are silent when migrants workers from the poorest of the 3rd World and 4th World are being exploited and abused by middle income nations?

I shouldn't complain. Thailand has been doing this to its neighboring countries for centuries. This country was built on the backs of Lao, Cambodian and Chinese coolie labor.

When it comes to western directed globalization, Thailand is the first country to beat the drums of Bang Rajan and go into hysterics about the evils of western capital. At a regional level, however, Thailand is the master exploiter and chief hypocrite.


fall said...

I think time of Chinese coolie was long past. Now, most Chinese in Thai are rich. The bottom of the barrel would be Burmese labor.

Thai government would keep regional foreign workers out of *well-paid* job for Thai. A below minimum wage worker would help increase Thai manufacturer cost competitiveness.
Cheap, no medical, and illegilly exploit & expendible.

A few years ago, there was a fan fare about Thai's responsibility in harboring refugee and migrant from neighboring countries by the human right groups and NGOs. I am guessing it is an unspoken agreement to take in some of these people, while putting them on low paid job.

Fonzi said...


When it comes to the Chinese, they were the first to be exploited for cheap labor, during early Rattanakosin period and even earlier. They had no political rights, but at least they didn't have to do corvee labor. All they had to do was pay a head tax and they were left alone.

But now most have gone from position of coolie to bourgeoisie, and have become the owning and intellectual class in Thai society.

But do the Burmese, Cambodia and Laos migrant workers have the same opportunities now?

Of course not.

1. They are not paid enough
2. They have all kinds of restrictions on their movements and so forth.
3. They'll have no chance to integrate into Thai society, because of racism and discrimination.

One would think that the Thai-Chinese class would be more hospitable to immigrants after what their ancestors suffered through, but unfortunately they don't want to share the power that they have accumulated over the years.

fall said...

To think on the opposite spectrum, I mean Thai had seen how Chinese coolie can become richer them.
This could create envy and jealousy, so (we) kept Burmese, Cambodian, and Laos from being successful. Nationalism? I dunno. But I dont think US sell anymore "American's Dream".

It's the same all over the world. Thai take advantage of non-skill labor from neighboring countries. All the while, providing the world with semi-skill/skill white collar. If I am not mistaken many companies, like Esso, use Thailand as base for handling world-wide payroll services.

Not that what practice widely would make it right. Empathy and greed just aint alway a mutual-benefit deal.