Thailand’s Migrant Workers Struggle to Qualify for Aid During Pandemic

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND – Migrant workers stuck in Thailand since the COVID – 19 lockdown began in March are facing unclear immigration status and mounting bills even as the government provides some aid for unemployed laborers in the country.

Just days after the Emergency Decree on March 23, Thailand shut down all border checkpoints and announced social security benefits for all workers who were affected – both Thais and foreigners.

But the qualifications required to receive the aid – including a Thai bank account and at least six months of contributing to the government fund – have resulted in the exclusion of the most vulnerable, including millions of migrants from neighboring countries.

For unemployed foreign workers like single mother Ma Win, a government social security payment was a welcome benefit earlier this month. But she says it was long overdue and about 20% less than what her Thai co-workers received.

Win, an ethnic Karenni from Myanmar, received a single payment of just half a months’ wage after working 14 years in a restaurant at a popular elephant camp on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand.

The owner of the camp provides housing for many of the employees, but the workers pay for food and utility bills.

Ma Win’s monthly salary at the tourist center was $235. The government payment to her was about $125.

During the high season, the camp employs about 300 workers to help care for more than 70 elephants on the compound.

 

Source: Voice of America