The recent detention of two female workers at a Buddhist monastery in Pattani’s Muang district has sparked uproar among the community of human rights advocates about Thai officials’ treatment of migrant workers and their alleged lack of understanding of related laws.
In this case, the Myanmar workers, who both have the proper identification papers and work permits, were arrested on Aug 15 during a raid at a classroom in Laem Nok monastery.
They were working as teaching volunteers for more than 80 children of migrant workers there.
The operation was carried out by immigration authorities, tourist police, soldiers and officials from the Labour Ministry’s Department of Employment. The pair reportedly signed a confession – which was written in Thai, meaning they could not read it – and fined B5,000 each.
They will reportedly be barred from re-entering Thailand to seek work for two years if they are deported.
Paphop Siamhan, from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), condemned Thai authorities over the incident, saying clear guidelines must be established to prevent rushed actions, rights violations and maltreatment.
“They have been teaching the children of migrant workers as volunteers. They don’t get paid for their service,” said Mr Paphop.
In a statement released by the HRDF and the Migrant Working Group, Thai authorities should make sure that migrant workers are properly informed of their rights under the justice system including the right to legal counsel and bail when they face charges.
The Royal Thai Police should establish proper procedures in line with the law on the management of migrant workers when carrying out raids, according to the statement.
The Department of Employment, meanwhile, was urged to set guidelines for work permit inspections and unpaid volunteer work by migrant workers.
According to the HRDF, the Laem Nok monastery in tambon Bana hosts a learning centre for children aged 4-14 born to migrant workers.
The children, who are often left without care when their parents go to work, are deemed vulnerable to various forms of exploitation. At the learning centre they are taught Thai language and culture and information about their country of origin.
The centre is funded by the local community and business operators, who pay for food and other costs. However, it relies on unpaid volunteers and local college students to teach the children, according to HRDF.
Mr Paphop said there is not much the group can do to help the two workers because the case has been finalised.
But the case should serve as an example to help prevent similarly unfair treatment in the future or it could adversely affect the government’s policy on managing migrant workers, he said.
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