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Cablegate: Burma: Nationality Verification On-Going at Northern-Most

VZCZCXRO0902
PP RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0166/01 3100922
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 060922Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1286
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1195
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHIANG MAI 000166

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LABOR FOR ILAB
STATE FOR G/TIP, EAP/MLS, AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ELAB SMIG KTIP BM TH
SUBJECT: BURMA: NATIONALITY VERIFICATION ON-GOING AT NORTHERN-MOST
BORDER

REF: A. REF A: BANGKOK 2821 (GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO CRITICISM OF MIGRANT WORKER REGISTRATION PROGRAM, BUT PROBLEMS REMAIN)
B. REF B: CHIANG MAI 152
C. REF C: BANGKOK 1376

CHIANG MAI 00000166 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.
-------------------------------
Summary and Comment
-------------------------------

1. (SBU) Thai Government and business contacts in Chiang Rai
Province told us during an October 19-20 visit that the
nationality verification process for Burmese workers is
proceeding smoothly at the Mae Sai-Tachilek center, although at
a slow pace. Problems they cited that are keeping the process
from moving forward more efficiently include: workers' as yet
unsubstantiated fears of retribution against their families in
Burma as a result of their participation in the program; a lack
of information about the registration process; complex
documentary requirements; the Burmese Government's inability to
process large numbers of applications simultaneously; and
reluctance on the part of some employers to pay registration
fees. Nonetheless, all but one participant successfully
completed the process, receiving a passport and visa in about
one day. While our contacts acknowledged the existence of
unconfirmed rumors of corruption, they reported no confirmed
cases of irregularities, and emphasized that all registered
workers are pleased with their new status.

2. (SBU) Comment: Our contacts acknowledged unconfirmed rumors
of corruption in the process, but emphasize that no workers
registering in Tachilek have complained of irregularities. The
situation at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing registration
point may be different, they opined. We will visit Mae Sot, Tak
Province in the near future, and will assess the implementation
of the nationality verification program there. End Summary and
Comment.

------------------------
What's Going Right
------------------------

3. (SBU) While the nationality verification program for Burmese
is far from perfect, business and Thai Government contacts in
Chiang Rai Province told us workers are generally pleased with
the results, and that none of those who registered at the Chiang
Rai-Tachilek border crossing point have reported fraud,
corruption or other irregularities. As of October 20, 498
workers had attempted to complete the process, according to
Ministry of Labor (MoL) officials based in Chiang Rai, with all
but one having fully succeeded. The worker who was unsuccessful
ran into trouble because he lied about his age and turned out to
be under the minimum working age. The other 497 all have
passports and visas already, according to the MoL, and are
pleased with their new status.

4. (SBU) Burmese officials in Tachilek are processing about 50
applications per day, according to our contacts. In most cases,
workers leave Thailand in the morning and return the same day,
they told us, acknowledging that some have to spend the night in
Burma to complete the process. One businessman reported that
all workers who had successfully registered had used a broker.
Another told us that workers residing in Chiang Rai could
register without one, but that those coming from out of town
need the services of an intermediary.

-------------------------------------------
System Works, but It's Not Perfect
-------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Despite the high percentage of successful registrants,
both business leaders and Thai Government contacts freely
acknowledged stumbling blocks with the process, including:

-- fear on the part of workers that Burmese officials will use
personal information obtained during the registration process to
blackmail their families in Burma;

-- the fact that some migrant workers of Burmese origin do not
have any legal status in Burma;

-- workers belonging to ethnic groups that actively resist the
regime militarily fear the regime will use personal information
to retaliate against their families due to their political views;

-- some employers are reluctant to pay registration costs for
their workers because once the workers complete the process, the
employers believe they are free to accept jobs elsewhere in
Thailand;

CHIANG MAI 00000166 002.2 OF 002

-- because processing is slow, the February 28, 2010 deadline
appears impossible to meet.

6. (SBU) According to the businessmen, neither the Thai nor the
Burmese officials manning the processing centers are trained and
equipped to carry out their duties effectively. Communication
between officials on both sides is an obstacle, as is the
burdensome amount of paperwork registrants have to fill out in
Burma (some 10 pages of documentation, according to our
contacts). Furthermore, our interlocutors alleged that Burmese
officials in Tachilek often do not have the authority to make
final determinations on applications, and therefore have to seek
the advice of their superiors in Nay Pyi Taw. The lack of
clarity about the process, particularly documentary
requirements, has opened the way for intermediaries to play a
role, according to business and government contacts. Fees
charged varied anywhere from $160 to $285 for full service,
according to our contacts, which includes the Burmese passport,
Thai visa, medical examination, and Thai work permit.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Bangkok.
MORROW

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