Diplomatic efforts by the Myanmar government to resolve the continuing migrant labour crisis with Thailand af failed so far and according to some observers, workers coming back home could face lack of employment opportunities in Burma.
Four-year work visas held by up to 100,000 Burmese migrant workers in Thailand have expired or are close to ending, and the Bangkok government has sent confused signals about the workers’ fate. Tens of thousands more visas will expire during 2014.
The visas were issued in administratively confused circumstances in 2009 and 2010, and Thai Ministry of Labour officials in Bangkok contacted by The Irrawaddy this week were unable to say exactly how many migrant workers were involved.
Despite all the international media talk of Burma becoming Asia’s ‘last economic frontier’ fuelled by an investment and growth boom, job opportunities “are insufficient for the present working-age population, even before contemplating the issue of the returnees,” economist and a co-editor of Burma Economic Watch Sean Turnell told The Irrawaddy.
At present, Thai rules stipulate that workers whose visas expire must return to Burma and they cannot return to Thailand for three years, the Thailand-based Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) said.
The number of people facing the four-year visa expiry deadline is growing, the Democratic Voice of Burma website quoted Kyaw Kyaw Lwin, labour attaché at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, as saying. “There will be nearly 100,000 workers whose visas will expire at the end of this year,” Kyaw Kyaw Lwin said.
Some Burmese workers whose visas have expired are choosing to remain in Thailand illegally. Others are being duped into paying money to Thai and Burmese middlemen and agencies claiming to offer them visa extensions, alleged MWRN.