Thailand’s ‘pink card’ system leaves Myanmar workers in limbo

Nay Pyi Taw, April 5 (IANS) Myanmar workers in Thailand holding temporary passports are confused by a new government policy on “pink card” residency documents which they believe curtails their freedom and leaves them vulnerable to deportation.

Over 1 million temporary passport holders will not be allowed to renew their expiring residency documents, issued between 2009 and 2013 as part of a national verification process.

Instead, they are being told to forfeit their legal status, and apply for “pink cards” that leave them vulnerable to arrest and deportation, The Myanmar Times reported on Tuesday.

Thailand began the controversial process on April 1, and will issue the pink cards over a period of 120 days. It will be valid for two years.

According to the Thai government, the pink-card holders cannot travel outside their province of registration for more than seven days, and employers must sign off on any travel stints. The workers will also not be permitted to return to their country of origin.

Rights groups have criticised the process as an erosion of Thailand’s migration policy, effectively de-regularising a large swath of the workforce and stripping them of social protections they were previously eligible for, including social security and pensions.

Ko Kyaw Zay Win, a temporary passport holder at the World Knitting dye factory in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon, said he is unsure what to do with his documents and whether he needs to register for a pink card. He has worked in Thailand for six years, and said his temporary passport and visa remain valid for over a year.

He added that if he obtained a pink card it would also come with a raft of restrictions on his movement and employment, and prevent him from visiting his home and collecting social welfare.

Of the roughly 3.5 million migrant workers in Thailand, about 2.3 million come from Myanmar, according to research from the International Organisation for Migration.

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