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  • Writer's pictureSompong Srakaew

New Perspectives on Thailand's Transnational Population for Inclusive Development

Why is it crucial to change our mindset towards the transnational population in Thailand?

If we continue to view workers from neighboring countries, such as Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, merely as a labor force, we reduce them to mere mechanical components in the production process. This mindset treats these individuals as expendable human capital, devoid of value and dignity. It perpetuates a limited perspective focused solely on business administration, ignoring the broader context of human society and business ethics.

Changing this mindset involves recognizing the potential and dignity of every individual, regardless of their origin. It means fostering an inclusive perspective that values human rights and freedoms. By doing so, we can leverage the knowledge, skills, and wisdom of these workers for mutual development in economic, social, educational, and environmental dimensions, rather than exploiting them solely for economic gain. This shift is crucial to prevent human rights abuses such as forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking.

Who are the migrant workers in Thailand, and what challenges do they face?

Migrant workers, particularly from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, have been coming to Thailand for decades, contributing significantly to the Thai economy. Estimates suggest there are no less than 6-7 million migrant workers in Thailand, with around three million having official documentation. These workers often take on jobs that many Thais are unwilling to do, such as physically demanding, dirty, and dangerous work. Without proper social protection systems like medical insurance and social security, these workers are vulnerable to exploitation and accidents.

What practical solutions can improve the quality of life for migrant workers?

  1. Labor Shortage: Thailand faces a significant labor shortage across various industries, including tourism and services. This shortage is exacerbated by an aging population and a declining birth rate. The Thai government needs to adopt policies that facilitate the legal and efficient importation of labor from neighboring countries while ensuring good labor management practices.

  2. Enterprise Responsibility: Enterprises employing migrant workers must comply with relevant laws and maintain high labor standards. This includes providing adequate social protection and ensuring ethical recruitment practices.

  3. Small and Medium Enterprises: Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) lack proper labor standards management. This issue is compounded when the owners are foreigners who may not adhere to local labor regulations. There needs to be stricter enforcement of labor rights in these enterprises.

  4. Corruption and Exploitation: Issues of corruption and exploitation in the labor management process need to be addressed. Workers often face illegal fees and inadequate protection, leading to repeated violations of their rights.

  5. Humanitarian Concerns: Many migrant workers, especially from Myanmar, are fleeing political turmoil and persecution. They have limited choices and are forced to seek work in Thailand for survival. It is crucial to ensure their humane treatment and integration into Thai society.

Towards a Solution

To address these issues, Thailand must adopt a comprehensive approach that includes:

  • Policy and Legal Frameworks: Implementing policies that align with international human rights standards and ensuring these policies are effectively enforced.

  • Human Rights and Ethical Recruitment: Promoting ethical recruitment practices and ensuring migrant workers receive fair treatment and equal opportunities.

  • Social Protection and Labor Standards: Providing robust social protection systems and maintaining high labor standards across all enterprises.

  • Inclusivity and Participation: Encouraging the participation of migrant workers in the development process and recognizing their contributions to society.

By changing our mindset and adopting inclusive policies, we can improve the quality of life for migrant workers, ensuring they enjoy their inalienable human rights and contribute positively to Thailand's development. The Labor Quality of Life Promotion Network Foundation (LPN) has been working towards these goals for nearly two decades, and in 2023, it continues to invite support for enhancing the quality of life for both migrant and Thai workers, aiming to meet ASEAN and global human rights standards.


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