Burmese Consulate Opens in Chiang Mai

By Nyein Nyein 29 July 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – The new Burmese consulate in Chiang Mai officially opened on Wednesday, with Burma’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin and ambassador to Thailand Win Maung in attendance.

The Burmese Consulate General office in northern Thailand was opened between 1960-76, according to Win Maung, but had been shuttered for the almost four decades since.

“The consulate reopening comes as bilateral relations between Thailand and Myanmar are at their best in 2015,” the ambassador told The Irrawaddy.

“The Myanmar Consulate General office will perform [the same] tasks as the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, [including building] on the bilateral relationship with Thailand and [handling] Myanmar visa and passport issues and Myanmar migrant worker issues.”

Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn, along with other foreign diplomats, were present at the opening on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, Tanasak met with his Burmese counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin in the northern Thai city  HYPERLINK “http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/burma-thailand-ink-long-awaited-visa-exemption-deal.html” where they signed off on a visa exemption agreement for Burmese and Thai citizens entering either country by plane.

The new Burmese Consul-General Kaung San Lwin will begin his work when the Thai government provides official acknowledgement of the consulate next month, Win Maung said.

Over 2 million Burmese migrant workers are believed to reside in Thailand, the vast majority toiling in labor-intensive and often unsafe work environments without official identity or work documents. The newly opened consulate will in part focus on migrant affairs.

“We have a one-stop service in Mae Sot and Mae Sai respectively and also here at the consulate,” Win Maung said. “If necessary, we will send one of our two labor attachés to take responsibility here at the consulate.”

Wunna Maung Lwin said Burmese migrant workers in Thailand would be provided with the government’s full support and urged them to “follow the formal channels to receive full labor rights.”

Recent efforts under the Thai government of Prayuth Chan-ocha, who took power following a coup in May last year, to regularize the country’s undocumented migrant workforce have been criticized by rights groups as ineffective.

Many Burmese migrants now hold temporary documents issued by Thai authorities but remain in limbo without a clear pathway to obtaining more permanent permits.

On the issue of voter registration for Burmese nationals living in Thailand ahead of the country’s November general election, Win Maung reiterated that citizens should email the completed form no. 15 to the Burmese Embassy—or to the newly opened consulate—to have their eligibility determined.