The officials involved in last week’s disaster, which at this stage appears to be Phuket’s deadliest workplace accident in decades, already had some practice just three months ago in the aftermath of the collapse at the condo construction site in Rawai that killed three Myanmar workers.
But this time some early noises were different, noticeably the assurance that compensation would be paid “even if the workers are not registered”. No further explanations have been forthcoming.
Even the Navy and marine officials staging a raid on a local fishing vessel are proud to quickly prove that all on board are legal. Not this time, the silence on this issue has been ominous.
Just nine days after the Rawai construction site collapse, the Phuket Provincial Employment Office (PPEO) held a seminar, as PPEO Chief Kattiya Pandech said, “to inform private companies, local administrative officers, community leaders, NGO, medias and public about the process and documents needed to register migrant workers”.
Like that was needed after we just killed three of them; now that highlights the ethical condition of our construction industry, but there it is. And that came more than 18 months after an “Emergency Decree” was issued in 2017 to crackdown on the “illegal importation” – that is, trafficking – of Myanmar labour.
Like with the inspiration for the 2017 crackdown, which saw hundreds, if not thousands, of migrant workers in Phuket dumped and abandoned by their illegal employers, the US is again breathing down Thailand’s neck, threatening economic sanctions if Thailand does not do more to protect, specifically, “basic workers rights”.
Only last month did the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue a statement to let the international arena know that Thailand is ramping up its efforts to protect workers. Any employer who hires illegal migrant workers shall be charged and fined, with repeat offenders imprisoned for up to a year and fined B50,000 to B200,000 for each worker – and prohibited from employing migrant workers for three years.
“This is to ensure that the protection of migrant workers’ rights is in line with the international standard,” said the statement, verbatim, issued on Oct 11.
Well Thailand, it’s time to prove you mean these very recent words, or stand to be shamed with embarrassment for your own failure to take action.