Press Release: Six migrant workers from Myanmar retrieving their personal documents from Phuket Office of Employment after they had been retained by their employer

On 28 March 2024, staff from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) in Phuket has accompanied six migrant workers from Myanmar to retrieve their personal documents after they had been retained by their employers who also refused to pay them their wage. Previously, the documents had been returned to the Phuket Office of Employment, but the officials had refused to return them to the workers claiming they were still indebted to their employer. 

The case stems from the incidence on 7 March 2024 as the six migrant workers from Myanmar employed to look after horses and a horse stable belonging to a company in Phuket have requested for help from the HRDF staff. According to them, their documents had been retained by their employer who also refused to pay them their wage. HRDF staff has thus helped the employees to apply for help from concerned authorities at the provincial level as follows; 

1. The Phuket Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare has been asked to conduct an inquiry and to offer assistance on labour protection law. The labour inspector has also instructed the employer to pay the outstanding wage according to which the employer agreed to pay the amount of 15,759 baht. After the payment of the wage, the labour inspector has prepared a memo of the receipt of the payment and asked the workers to withdraw their KR7 complaint. 

2. Late, on 27 March 2024, the employer has brought to the Phuket Office of Employment all the documents belonging to the six workers and the workers have gone there to collect their documents the following day. But the authorities refused to hand over the documents citing the workers were still indebted to the employer including the fees stemming from their document processing. After reimbursing their employer, the workers would be allowed to retrieve the documents. One of the workers was allowed to retrieve his documents temporarily to be filed with his application to ask for the right to reside in the Kingdom for 90 days with the Phuket Immigration. In light of how the response from the local authorities in this case, HRDF deems such authorities might have committed an abuse of office since they have failed to hold the employer to account for breaching the Royal Ordinance Concerning Management of Employment of Foreign Workers’ Section 131. Further abuse was also committed for further retaining the workers’ documents citing their debt obligation to the employer. Following our complaint to the Department of Employment asking for an inquiry into this matter, the documents have all been returned to the workers. 

Ms. Phenpiccha Jankomol, Project Coordinator from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) said that the personal documents have been issued to the workers by government agencies to indicate their legal status and to ensure national security, particularly to ensure the existence of legal workers in Thailand. If the workers are unable to produce their personal documents to the authorities, it would make them vulnerable to arrest and deportation to their country of origin. It also deprives them of the chance to report themselves to acquire the right to reside every 90 days from the Immigration Bureau. It will further damage the nation’s image if such problem has led to further vulnerability of the workers to becoming victims of forced labour or trafficking in person. This may lead to the downgrading of the indicators of the state in terms of its capacity to address trafficking in person in labour sector. It will also have the ramification on our trading with the buying countries. Therefore, we ask the Ministry of Labour to promptly ensure the proper understanding among concerned authorities regarding the enforcement of the law on the management of foreign workers to prevent further risk that may affect rights and obligations of the workers. 

For more information, please contact: Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

[email protected]