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Vol. 24 No.2
April - June 2007

ISSN 0125-0159

Editor’s Note
International Forum
Thailand Moving with ASEAN Towards a Caring and Sharing Society
Prayong Ronnarong: Prime Example of a Community Leader
BOI and Its Important Roles in Promoting Investors in Global Business Arenas
Special Feature
China - ASEAN Cooperation Program
Human Security
Protecting the Rights of Immigrant Workers
Foreign Relations
The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge: A New Link between Thailand and Its Close Neighbors
Trends of Energy Use and Development in Thailand
Thai Touch
Ko Phra Thong: A Savanna Paradise

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Protecting the Rights of Immigrant Workers

In the eyes of alien laborers, Thailand is progressing rapidly and is therefore a good source of jobs. Most alien laborers work in factories and other businesses that want a low-cost workforce. Today alien workers are everywhere, most frequently found on construction sites and fishing boats. The large majority come from neighboring countries, such as Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, some of them immigrating legally, but many not. And although we often hear the phrase “threats to national security,” the worry is unfounded, as immigrants come to earn a better living, not to cause trouble.

If the growth of per capita production is considered as the best indicator of the productivity of laborers in a nation, a study on the productivity of ASEAN labor, which was sponsored by the Thailand Research Fund, finds that, among the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the highest productivity belongs to Singaporean workers, followed by Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, Philippine, Vietnamese, and Burmese laborers. The study also finds that employment in ASEAN members has been growing steadily in the 21st century. However, the productivity of ASEAN laborers is increasing at a slower pace than before. This results from changes in the structure of populations.

Labor markets in the region are experiencing an imbalance of labor demand and supply. Some nations suffer from a labor shortage, while others face an oversupply. When a nation has an inadequate workforce and experiences higher wages, it needs cheaper alien workers. But since most alien laborers immigrate illegally and are not registered with authorities, they face problems, such as a lack of labor rights and exclusion from protection and health care.

Directly responsible for this issue, the Ministry of Labor, through its Department of Labor Protection and Welfare, is creating a labor protection network. It organized a seminar with members of the press and public relations authorities from all regions in the country to introduce labor protection under the Labor Protection Act of 1998. Presented in the seminar, which took place on 14-15 June 2007, were missions, duties, responsibilities, and plans to provide immigrant workers with the same protection that Thai laborers have. The session was aimed at creating understanding between labor inspectors, alien laborers, and other workers, as well as awareness among all parties and the general public of the legal rights and benefits all laborers are entitled to.

The seminar concluded that guaranteeing labor potential requires international labor standards adopted by the International Labor Organization and the private sector. Thailand takes care of and protects immigrant workers in compliance with labor laws that cover minimum wages, protection for female and child workers, labor welfare and relations, occupational safety and hygiene, and appropriate working conditions. The standard treatment for laborers reflects a social responsibility and serious efforts to improve their quality of life. The Ministry of Labor is willing to provide Thai and alien workers with equal services and protection to ensure quality labor, which is the key to national development. The Ministry is encouraging employers to treat alien workers fairly and guarantee their rights in accordance with the law. This will result in both good working conditions and higher productivity. The Ministry also urges employers to pay attention to the health of alien workers by regularly taking them to clinics for physical checkups, because they are potential carriers of dangerous diseases, including malaria and elephantitis.

Thailand supports fair treatment for alien workers in the hope of guaranteeing that they enjoy equal working status, security, human dignity, basic rights, and working opportunities that enable them and their families to find a better life. Thailand has improved and enforced its labor laws, promising fair treatment for both male and female workers, introducing better labor standards, and promoting serious cooperation between the government, employers, and workers.

Issues regarding immigrant workers exist in Thailand and other ASEAN members. Alien workers may constitute a large group of people in these nations and their problems are immediate problems. All agencies concerned should pay attention to them, because these people need standard and equal treatment. Fulfilling this need will contribute to peace and prosperity, so every nation should make a sincere attempt to treat everyone within its borders humanely.

Story: Wudhichai Assawinchaichote
Photos: Apichai Suananantapoom

Foreign Office
The Government Public Relations Department

Rama VI Road, Soi 30, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Tel : (66-2) 618-2323 ext. 1700 Fax : (66-2) 618-2358 E-mail : prforeign@gmail.com