Mr. Charlie Tiyu, a migrant worker from Myanmar who was illegally chained to his bed whilst receiving treatment for a work-related injury last week, is being supported by Thai rights groups tomorrow (7th Feb 2011) to demand compensation from the Social Security Office’s (SSO) Workmen’s Compensation Fund (WCF). After a campaign by the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), the Immigration Bureau ordered Charlie unchained on 4th Feb 2011 but he remains under custody in the Police General Hospital in Bangkok.
The Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC), State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), Council of Work and Environment Related Patient’s Network of Thailand (WEPT) and HRDF will tomorrow meet with the Minister of Labour in Bangkok to point out systematic failures by the Royal Thai Government (RTG) in effectively dealing with migrant work related accidents. Evidence suggests injured migrants like Charlie continue to be deported from Thailand in gravely ill conditions whilst very little coordination is undertaken to ensure hospitals are paid for treatment expenses for these workers. Rights groups are advocating using Charlie’s case since many migrants who suffer work related injuries and disabilities continue to be barred from the WCF and are abandoned by their employers. Rights groups will demand the WCF cover treatment costs and compensation for Charlie despite RTG’s discriminatory policy denying migrant access to the WCF.
Charlie Tiyu, a 28 year old migrant worker from Myanmar, was severely injured at work on 9th January 2011. He was working as a bricklayer and an employee of the SNU Supply Company. SNU is hired to expand a building in Tambon Kukot in Pathum Thani Province. During his work, a concrete wall crumbled and landed on his torso causing him to break his left hip and suffer severe injuries of internal organs including a fractured large intestine and bruised urinary bladder. During treatment at Pathum Thani hospital, Charlie was arrested and transferred into the custody of the Immigration Bureau on 31st January 2011. Pathum Thani hospital reported his case to the police as Charlie could not pay his hospital costs and they said his work permit expired on 20th January 2011. He was detained at the Immigration Bureau pending deportation to Myanmar in a very sick state. Following a complaint from HRDF, Charlie was transferred to the Police General Hospital in Central Bangkok to receive treatment from 1st February 2011.
During his first four days at the Police General Hospital, Charlie was chained to his bed. HRDF reported his case to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Royal Thai Police (RTP) claiming that putting shackles on a sick patient who could not walk and was already imprisoned in a cell was in breach of the Immigration Bureau’s own regulation, a human rights violation and in complete disrespect of human dignity. Eventually, the Immigration Bureau ordered Charlie unchained on 4th February 2011 but he remains in custody. Charlie is concerned with the extension of his work permit which expired on 20th January 2011 whilst he was receiving treatment. HRDF is preparing to demand accident compensation for him in accordance with the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1994.
According to a senior Ministry of Labour official interviewed on Thai PBS on 4th February 2011, an extension for all migrants whose work permits expired on 20th January 2011 has now been allowed and MoL officials will urgently ensure Charlie’s work permit is renewed. Charlie’s work permit expired on 20th January 2011 simply due to his extraordinary circumstances, the official said.
Though Charlie has now been unchained, the overall system to manage migrant workers in Thailand remains intact. This migrant worker management system continues to cause grave concern amongst human rights and labour organizations. Occupational injuries are a common phenomenon for migrant workers who can be subject to deportation following such accidents and are frequently abandoned by their employers. Migrant access to the WCF is forbidden because of a RTG policy which says employers must respond to pay compensation and medical fees instead but these same employers often flee or fail to respond adequately. With no attempt by the RTG to address this problem, hospitals often cannot receive payment to cover work accident treatment. Despite 4 years of complaints by the NHRC, International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, WCF access for migrants in Thailand continues to be denied.
As Charlie’s case shows, migrant workers are denied the right to medical treatment costs for work related accidents from the WCF and since the migrant health insurance scheme likewise excludes treatment costs for work related accidents, hospitals become hesitant to provide treatment to migrants through fear that they cannot recoup the costs. That Charlie remains in custody and was chained up, despite his serious injuries, is also symbolic of how management of migrant workers in Thailand, including systems relating to public health, immigration, labour protection and the operation of some law enforcement officers is not in compliance with the law and principles of human rights. Migrant workers continue to be systematically denied respect for their human dignity.