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The process begins for workers keen to register on Phuket

Phuket's Burma Workers in Mass Registration

Thursday, July 2, 2009
ABOUT 90,000 Burmese work illegally on Phuket, stretching the island's health and education systems, says Thanawan Tongsukchote, Chief of Phuket Provincial Employment office.

Now illegal workers who have jobs will be able to register at Phuket's three sub-district offices before July 31 and gain identity cards that will grant them official status.

Those who are granted cards may then go to Vachira Public Hospital in Phuket City before August 15 for a complete health check.

Those who pass the health check may then register with the Phuket Provincial Employment office before September 1.

It is understood that, with each candidate's fingerprints, signature and photographs, the documents will be sent to Burmese officials.

Burmese officials have undertaken to allow those Burmese who register to return home, with the document supplied by Thai offiicals of similar significance to a passport.

The documents will then be returned to Phuket, so officials can issue formal work permits.

Phuketwan asked what might happen if some of the people attempting to register were found to be Rohingya or others not accepted as citizens.

''I can't answer that right now,'' Khun Tanawan said. ''There are going to be anomalies of all kinds that will have to be referred to Bangkok for a decision.

''The system is untested, so we just don't know what to expect in some individual circumstances.''

Khun Tanawan spends a lot of time in Malaysia in his role as an ''employment ambassador.''

Asked whether Burmese generally preferred to find work in Malaysia or Thailand, he said: ''Most tend to favor Thailand. Their lives are a little bit easier here, even though there are restrictions.''

Of those Burmese who find work in Thailand, between 50 percent and 70 percent stay long-term, often marrying, and having children.

''The question for the future is, how much education and health care should Thailand offer those children of Burmese?'' Khun Tanawan said.

The plan to issue registration cards to illegal workers this month is nantionwide and expected to uncover perhaps one million Burmese, Laotians and Cambodians working in Thailand.

The concept of registering workers from outside Thailand is based on the ''Ranong model'' that has been tested in the border province, where some experts estimate that Burmese already outnumber Thai residents.

All the registration cards expire on February 28, 2010, when the process begins again, or people have to return home.

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