Junta Insider Wins Myanmar Migrant Contract in Thailand

By The Irrawaddy 24 January 2022

A company owned by a distant relative of Myanmar’s junta leader has won the contract to issue certificates of identity (CIs) to undocumented workers from Myanmar in Thailand, according to sources.

The service centers to issue CI booklets opened on Jan. 10 in Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Ranong provinces. The CI is a document for migrants from Myanmar proving their citizenship.

The CIs were issued to undocumented migrant workers in 2017 and 2018 and are valid for four years. CI holders are required to renew their documents.

Six companies applied to the junta-controlled Labor Ministry to issue CIs in Thailand and United KMK made the winning bid to operate the five CI centers in Thailand, according to sources.

The company’s managing director U Khin Maung Kyaw is a former military officer. His wife is a relative of Daw Kyu Kyu Hla, the wife of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

U Khin Maung Kyaw.

U Khin Maung Kyaw reportedly has close ties with the junta-appointed deputy labor minister, U Win Shein.

The company brews Mandalay Beer and has interests in fish farming and cold processing businesses in Myeik, Tanintharyi Region. It was awarded a distinguished business award under U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government before the National League for Democracy took office.

The official rate fixed by Myanmar’s government is 300 baht (16,000 kyats) for CI renewal but agents are involved and migrants have to pay between 1,000 and 2,000 baht when they cannot travel to the CI service centers.

“The official service fee is 300 baht. It is often a day’s wage for migrant workers and many can afford it. But the process is lengthy and not transparent and they have to spend as much as 2,000 baht, which is far less affordable,” said U Aung Kyaw, the chairman of the Migrant Workers Rights Network, a Bangkok-based rights group for migrants from Myanmar.

Some migrants have chosen not to renew their CIs because of the illegitimacy of the military regime.

A migrant worker said: “Because of injustice in Myanmar, many migrant workers like me have decided to boycott the services of the illegal regime. But some are nervous and they renew their CIs.”

U Khin Maung Kyaw (second from the left)

U Aung Kyaw said his organization had unsuccessfully lobbied for a simplification of the CI process. “The life of migrant workers is tough and filled with hardship. They are being exploited by being forced to pay high amounts to get CIs.”

Myanmar labor attaché in Ranong said: “Only a few migrants are renewing their CIs at the moment. There have been around 70 renewals since January 10. The service is charged at the official, fixed rates.”

The CI renewal service will be provided until August 1. Around 1.5 million migrants from Myanmar are working in Thailand legally with around a million more undocumented workers.

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