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Thailand gives foreign workers 25 days off for Thingyan Festival


Thailand has decided to give foreign migrant workers a 25-day holiday to give them enough time to go home to celebrate the Songkran Festival (Thingyan in Myanmar), according to a Myanmar Embassy official and migrant rights groups in Thailand.

“Our migrants will need to take leaves from their factories if they return back home for Thingyan. They also need to bring their all legal documents,” a Myanmar Embassy official told The Myanmar Times on Wednesday.

The migrant rights group Aid Alliance Committee (AAC) said Myanmar workers do not need permission from the Thai Immigration Department to return to their home countries. They can return home without being arrested if they do not have their papers stamped by the department.

“Previously workers needed to get their documents stamped. This year, they don’t need the stamp, so they do not have to pay anything,” AAC member Ko Ye Min said.

In previous years, workers who returned home had to get the stamp, which cost from 1000 baht (US$32/K42,800) to 1500 baht.

According to an announcement by the Thai government on Tuesday, the cabinet approved a request of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour for 25 days’ holiday for foreign workers for the Songkran Festival, which is known as Thingyan in Myanmar.

The government has given foreign workers 25 days, from April 5 to 30, to return home for Songkran. But all migrant workers must return to Thailand before the end of April, according to the announcement.

Migrant activists and workers said that Myanmar workers are not eager to return home this year because they spent a lot of money on the legalisation process so they could live and work in the kingdom. This includes payments for a certificate of identity (CI), visa, work permit and other requirements.

At the moment, several hundred Myanmar migrant workers are stuck in crowded immigration and labour service centres in Thailand because of the final due date approaching on Saturday.

Myanmar embassy officials have warned that Myanmar migrant workers who hold pink cards (temporary living and work permits issued by Thailand) must apply for CIs before Saturday because their pink cards expired in November 2017 and Thailand will not extend the deadline.

Hundreds of Myanmar workers are sleeping in or near immigration service centres in Bangkok while waiting for their CIs.

There are an estimated 4 million Myanmar migrants living and working in Thailand, and over 10,000 new Myanmar migrant workers leave for Thailand monthly in order to be able to support their families due to lack of employment opportunities in the country.

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