Myanmar ‘inflicts statelessness’ on Muslim migrant workers in Thailand

The baby of undocumented Burmese Muslim parents naps in a hammock while relatives sit nearby. Photo: BHRN
The baby of undocumented Burmese Muslim parents naps in a hammock while relatives sit nearby. Photo: BHRN

Myanmar’s systematic refusal to issue national ID cards to Muslims citizens is placing Muslim migrant workers in Thailand in the crosshairs of a new law that will require them to present an ID in order to secure a work permit.

Under the new Thai law, which will come into effect on June 30, migrant workers who remain in Thailand without a national ID certificate will be subjected to fines of between THB2,000 and THB100,000, five years in prison, or deportation, plus a two-year ban on re-applying for a work permit.

The plight Muslims migrant workers from Myanmar is described in a report released this week by the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN). According to the report, the negative impact of the new law will be vast, as nearly 80 percent of Myanmar Muslim migrant workers in the Thai border town of Mae Sot have never received ID cards from the Myanmar government, even though they are citizens of Myanmar.

Two thirds of the workers surveyed said their applications for ID cards were denied by Myanmar authorities.

“Statelessness inflicted on the community in Myanmar has now become a problem in Thailand, making Burmese Muslim migrants more vulnerable and undermining Thai government policy to register all migrant workers,” the report says.

Myanmar’s refusal to grant ID cards to Muslim migrant workers is part of a larger “long-term systematic refusal to issue national ID cards to Muslims” in general, which BHRN has documented previously.

This refusal extends to passports, which Myanmar authorities routinely withhold from Muslim and other minority applicants, as Coconuts recently reported.

“These are people who fled Myanmar to escape persecution and civil war. This law increases their vulnerability,” said BHRN’s executive director, Kyaw Win, upon the release of the report.

“Their statelessness is an urgent and serious issue. If they cannot live in Thailand after June 30, they may have to return to Myanmar, where they face persecution and imprisonment.”

The BHRN report said Myanmar’s refusal to issue ID cards to Muslim citizens is “in direct contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Burma’s treaty obligations under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, making this a blatant violation of international law.”

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One thought on “Myanmar ‘inflicts statelessness’ on Muslim migrant workers in Thailand

  1. Although there is validity to the claim that Muslim applicants for passports sometimes are treated differently, I personally know many Muslim applicants who have received passports.

    BHRN seems to be deliberately inflaming divisions that are likely ethnic rather than religious

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