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Calls for Thailand to offer welfare protection for migrant workers

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Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng (right) meets IOM Asia-Pacific Regional Director Nentte Motus on Wednesday. The Ministry of Labour

Calls for Thailand to offer welfare protection for migrant workers

Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng requested the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to help urge Thailand to provide a national cross-border social security scheme for migrant workers of five countries before 2021.

The request came at a meeting with Regional Director for IOM Asia-Pacific Nentte Motus on Wednesday evening at the ministry.

Cooperation in the labour sector for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (CLMTV) is a joint initiative, especially in the portability of national social security scheme for migrant workers of the five countries.

In the past, CLMTV agreed on a mechanism to extend benefits of the national social security scheme from the migrant-worker-receiving country to the migrant-worker-sending country. The initiative protects and promotes the rights of migrant workers.

The five had agreed to continue their joint work to achieve the benefits in 2021, but some regional countries had yet to take part in full, so the IOM had to play a role in urging the countries to participate and cooperate, he said.

Quoting Sam Heng, the ministry’s undersecretary of state Ho Vuthy said: “Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam request the IOM to help urge the Thai side – the country receives many migrant workers – to participate in the scheme further.”

Vuthy told reporters that the IOM had agreed to help strengthen the issues of health and the national social security scheme in the five countries.

“The IOM also maintained that it continues to coordinate and urge bilateral relations between each country in the frameworks of the five countries.

“It is hoped that the process will assist migrant workers and our Cambodians alike. Some countries are already implementing the scheme to reduce the poverty of migrant workers and provide safety,” he stressed.

Through the meeting, the IOM will continue to coordinate further with the five countries.

Motus could not be reached for further comment on the matter. An IOM official declined to give an interview when contacted by The Post.

But the Facebook page of the ministry on Thursday quoted Motus as saying she had prioritised the promotion of migrant worker relations. This involves managing workers in relation to their families.

The IOM also agreed to continue its work involving workers such as training them in skills and finding them jobs.

A ministry of labour figure said that 1.2 million Cambodians are working as migrant workers abroad.

Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central) programme coordinator Khun Tharo told The Post that it is good for the countries in the region to work together to create the portability of a national social security scheme as it would benefit migrant workers.

However, he said the mechanism could be difficult to achieve as the migrant-worker-receiving country might lose benefits. The country might not want the mechanism to be established.

“Each country may put their national interests first. In the past, Thailand has also received benefits from Cambodian and Myanmar migrant workers and workers from various countries working in Thailand through the national social security scheme.

“The workers have never received them in return or received the least of the benefits. So I believe that this issue depends on the political will of whether the countries respect the framework of human and labour rights.

“If the countries don’t agree, it will become a major obstacle in enabling this portability of national social security scheme,” he said.

He said cooperation in the labour sector for the CLMTV countries might face obstacles. If it could be achieved, it might be created through bilateral agreements in line with the national laws of each country.

Further discussions, he said, is required in terms of political will and the law of each country.

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