By Nang Mya Nadi
Burmese migrant workers may soon be able to apply for temporary passports in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai city as the Kingdom seeks to speed up the process of legalising the millions of foreigners that provide crucial support for the economy.
The new service would allow Burmese residents in northern Thailand to complete the required passport application process in Chiang Mai rather than having to travel to Bangkok, Ruchuchai Phota from Chiang Mai Province’s Employment Office says.
“The Thai cabinet at the end of last year approved this plan,” said Phota, who heads the office’s Labour Support Department . “Talks were held yesterday with concerned Burmese officials to work out the details.
“We went to look at the facility [that will provide the service]. An official announcement will be made once the staff is ready. We are trying to open it as soon as possible.”
The centre is expected to open at Chiang Mai’s 700 Year Stadium on 14 March and will be managed by immigration officials from Burma, as well as police and staff from the Thai Labour Ministry.
At the centre, patrons will be able to apply for national verification, passports and visas. According to one Burmese official, the whole process should take an hour to complete should the individual applying for the passport have the necessary paperwork ready.
The official said migrant workers who previously have passed the national verification process could complete the necessary procedures in the Burmese borer towns of Myawaddy, Kawthaung and Tachilek, while those applying for passports would be able to do so at centres in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Samut Sakhon and Tak provinces.
Organisations working on labour affairs estimate that there are between two and three million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, whose total migrant population accounts for some five percent of the Thai work force.
However, Burma’s nascent opening up has led some workers to return to the country where jobs are available.
As reported by Thailand’s Public Relations Department: “[Thailand’s real estate sector is facing severe labor shortage, causing delays in several housing construction plans” because many of the migrant workers who left during the flooding last year did not return to Thailand.