By Dr Tha Sein
Workers from Myanmar make up the backbone of Thai manual labour forces. A large number of Thai industries including a multi-billion dollar seafood sector are heavily reliant on Myanmar workers. Undocumented migrants are sometimes subject to exploitation by employers who hire undocumented foreign workers should face a fine of up to 800,000 baths (K 31.92 million) under the degeree that went into effect on 23 June.
Thailand has to import migrant workers to offset the shortage of labour, particularly in the services and construction sectors. The country delayed a new labour law after 6500 Myanmar workers returned, and their return continues, sending a signal to Bangkok what the workers can and are willing to go back home without anxiety.
Bangkok’s actions are certain to run into a major problem, prompting a gradual decline in both the morale of the workers and the business environment. Other problems remain in Thailand, such as the ethical conduct and transparency of Thai companies, while corruption scandals suggest some migrant fishermen were forced to work and unpaid.
This is not the first time the Thai government has imposed restrictions on the Myanmar workers. Each time a probe is set up and nothing concrete comes of it, with the problem simply fading from public attention. Myanmar officials should engage in negotiations with their Thai counterparts in the first place, given legalizing made by Thai government for foreign workers.
Most recently, the United States kept Thailand on a trafficking list watch list, saying it did not meet the minimum standards to end human trafficking. It may bring into question whether the latter properly deal with the issue. Thailand could use this as a lesson and make things right before it is too late.
Contrary to the past, Myanmar is seen as a promising place for infrastructural investment and a production base, with 6.5 per cent real-term economic growth in 2016. Since the country opened up in 2012, the influx of Foreign Direct Investment-FDI reached its peak in 2014 with a total of over US$ 8 billion in approved investment for the year.
Nowadays, the scene in Myanmar is completely different. Business atmosphere is vibrant with a steady emergence of special economic zones. Tourism is booming. New property projects are coming up along with new transport facilities, pushing land prices up to new heights. It means the country marks a new phase and today belongs almost entirely to the Myanmar people.