HRDs being interviewed by journalists


Protection of the Right to Defend Human Rights of Migrant Workers in Thailand

3 November 2021

Concern regarding Seven Migrant Workers Arrested at Ministry of Labour Despite Thailand Government’s Decision on Amnesty pending Regularization and Demand for Protection of the Right to Defend Human Rights of Migrant Workers

Joint open letter to the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Minister of Labour in Thailand, the Minister of Interior in Thailand, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the President of the National Assembly and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Thailand, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights).

Dear Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern and call for action regarding the following.

On 29/10/2021, seven migrant workers from Cambodia were arrested and detained at Ministry of Labour (MOL) Thailand. This occurred whilst they were part of a Delegation submitting a Petition to the Minister of Labour demanding better welfare and rights of migrant workers working in Thailand, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The arrests occurred despite announcements on official government websites regarding the Cabinets decision to give an amnesty on documentation requirements for migrants and whilst the migrants were exercising their human rights as Human Rights Defenders.

One of the main duties of MOL is  “to consider complaints or requests filled to Minister”. The Minister failed in his duty to the seven migrant workers who were making an official request.

On 29 October 2021, at about 9 am, a delegation from the Taskforce to Monitor the Provision of Support to Workers in the Construction Sector, which included the Workers’ Union, the Labor Network for People’s Rights, and migrant workers, went to meet the Minister of Labour petitioning that the MOL ensure better welfare and rights to migrant workers, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Their demands included, (1) the appointment of the Working Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers from the Three Countries (Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia)  with representation from the workers, civil society, and state; (2) the reduction of fees and expenses, particularly for those migrants with permission to remain in the Kingdom; (3) the provision of Mandatory Health Insurance for migrant workers from these three countries who are employed in the private sector to be at the same rate and benefits as provided in the health insurance scheme of the Ministry of Public Health or Social Security; and (4) the repeal of Social Security Office’s regulations which impede the migrant workers’ access to protection under the Workmen’s Compensation Fund Act.

Around 11 am while negotiations were ongoing between the representatives of the delegation and the authorities,  seven migrant workers who were waiting outside the Ministry of Labour were arrested by plainclothes police officers, Immigration officers, and other unidentified officials wearing vests bearing the name “The Minister of Labour Suchart Chomklin”. The authorities barged in and demanded to examine the personal documents of the seven workers. Photos were taken. The seven Cambodian migrant workers (3 women and 4 men) were arrested and taken to the Din Daeng Police Station. One of them is a single mother, who had that morning told her children she would be out to process her work permit, but will come back in the evening. Now, her two children are left motherless having no idea where their mother is. Charges against the seven were for allegedly illegally entering the country, an offense punishable under the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979).

Denial of access to lawyers and questionable investigations

The seven allegedly were then pressured into rushing to sign the charge sheets, which can be taken as an admission of guilt. This was done before they were granted access to lawyers and/or legal representatives. There were no qualified interpreters present. Access to lawyers was subsequently granted only at around 3 pm. The police then transferred the seven to the Immigration Detention Centre (Soi Suan Plu IDC), where they remain in detention. Arresting these migrant workers, who are Human Rights and Labour Rights Defenders, who went to the Ministry to submit representations is wrong and a violation of human and labor rights.

When Minister and Ministries Disrespect Thailand Cabinet’s Decision of 28/9/2021.

It is shocking that this happened after the Thai Cabinet on 28 September  2021 had made and publicized a decision to allow undocumented migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia to continue to stay in Thailand to enable time for employers and migrant workers to apply and receive official permits. The Cabinet’s reasonable decision comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected employers, workers, and also government administration. Despite this government decision, the Ministry of Interior and/or the Ministry of Labour has still failed to put in place the necessary mechanisms and procedures to give effect to the government’s decision.

This government decision will apply to two groups of migrant workers including (1)  undocumented workers from the said three countries who have yet to obtain their work permits; and (2) migrant workers from the said three countries who have already applied for work permits under the earlier 29 December 2020 Cabinet resolution, but have yet to receive their permits.

The reported government decision was that these 2 categories of workers shall be treated as follows: The undocumented migrant workers who have yet to apply for work permits shall remain in the Kingdom and continue to work legally, and their employers must apply for work permits on behalf of the workers within 30 days after the Notification of the relevant Ministry, being the Ministry of Labour and/or Ministry of Interior, is issued and published in The Royal Thai Government Gazette. Migrant workers will be allowed to continue staying and working in the Kingdom until 28 February 2023.

Over a month after the government’s decision, the needed Notification from the relevant Ministry is yet to be issued. This procrastination and neglect of duty has also impacted the ability of Public Health to successfully implement its COVID-19 prevention program. The procrastination of Ministers and their Ministry is appalling as it will cause great suffering not just to migrant workers but also to their employers. It has been reported on the Facebook Page of the Labor Network for People’s Rights that on the evening of 29 October 2021, negotiations concluded that the said seven migrant workers will be placed under COVID-19 quarantine for at least 14 days or until the Ministry Notification pursuant the 28 September 2021 Cabinet decision is issued and despite the high risk of Covid-19 infection at detention facilities.

We, the undersigned, therefore

  • Call for the immediate release of the seven migrant human rights defenders, noting that this arrest is a violation of human rights following Thailand’s decision to grant amnesty pending regularization;
  • Call also that the Thai government to forthwith apologize and to provide an effective remedy and compensation for seven migrant victims of human rights violations;
  • Call on the Ministry of Labour and/or the Ministry of Interior to respect the Thai government/Cabinet decision of 28 September 2021, stop procrastinating, and immediately proceed on the regularization of migrant workers and adopt legislative, administrative, and other steps as may be necessary to ensure effective implementation of rights and freedoms of migrant workers.
  • Call also for a moratorium on arrest and detention of migrant workers on the basis of being undocumented pending the completion of the regularization exercise.
  • Call on Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, UN, and others responsible and concerned for defending human rights to act to end this human rights violation.


1. Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN)

2.  Asian Resource Foundation (ARF)

3. Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia

4. Society of Young Social Innovators (SYSI), Thailand

5. Young Leadership for Social Change Network, Thailand

6. People Go Network, Thailand

7. MAP Foundation, Thailand

8.  Migrant Workers  Federation (MWF), Thailand

9.  Women  Workers for  Justice ( WJG), Thailand

10. Salaya Students and Worker Union, Thailand

11. Clean Cloth Campaign (CCC), South East Asia  Coalition

12. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia

13. Foundation for Aids Rights (FAR), Thailand

14.  Workers Assistance Center, Inc. Philippine

15. MADPET-Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, Malaysia

16. National Catholic Commissions on Migration NCCM, Thailand

17. The Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific

18. Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia

19.  Justice for Peace Foundation, Thailand

20. Safety and Rights Society (SRS), Bangladesh,

21. Women’s Centre, Sri Lanka

22.  Legal Action for Women, UK

23. Global Women’s Strike, UK

24. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), Cambodia

25.  We Women Lanka

26.  Think Centre, Singapore

27.   Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia

28.   Mekong Migration Network (MMN)

29.   Foundation for Education and Development (FED)

30.  Empower Foundation, Thailand

31.   Focus on the Global South

32.   Union for Civil Liberty, Thailand

33.  Social Action for Community and Development (SACD ), Cambodia

34.  Manushya Foundation., Thailand

35.  Women of Color, USA

36. Global Women’s Strike USA

37. International Black Women for Wages for Housework

38.  Labour Behind the Label, UK

39.  Global Women Against Deportations, UK

40. Defenders in Dordrecht, Netherlands

41. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

42. Nijera Kori , Bangladesh

43. People’s Empowerment Foundation, Thailand

44. Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM), Thailand

45. Ecological and Cultural Study Group, Thailand

46. Thai Network of People Who Own Mineral Resources, Thailand

47.  KhonRakBamnetNarong  , The Anti- Potash mining group, Chaiyaphume, Thailand

48. KhonRakBanKerd   in 6 villages, The Anti gold mining group, Loei, Thailand

49. RakWanonNiwat , The Anti Mining group ,Sakon Nakhon , Thailand

50. RakKhamPaLai, The Anti Mining group, Mukdahan, Thailand

51. The Community of Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group, NongBualamphu, Thailand

52. RakBanHeang, The anti-mining group, Lampang, Thailand

53. RakLamKhoHong The anti-mining group, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

54. KhonLaoHaiNgam Anti mining group, Kalasin, Thailand

55.  Center for Orang Asli Concerns, Malaysia

56. National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers. Malaysia

57. Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy (KOCUN), Korea

58. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), Thailand

59. The Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT)

60. Raks Thai Foundations, Thailand

61. Protection International

62.  Independent Trade Union Federation (INTUFE)

63.  Worker’s Information Center (WIC), Cambodia

64. Social Action for Community and Development (SACD)

65.  Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)

66.  Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)

67. Global Women’s Strike Ireland

68. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)


70.  Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) , Thailand

71. Media for Citizenship Group, Thailand

72. Dao Din, Thailand

73. Legal Center for Human Rights, Thailand

74. New E san Movement, Thailand

75.  Banpak  Group, Thailand

76. MSU Revolutionary Party (MRP), Thailand

77. Move High Group, Thailand

78.  New Surin Movement, Thailand

79.  UDdone, Thailand

80.  Korphue dismantle dictator Group, Thailand

81. People’s Party of Buengkan, Thailand

82.  Korat Movement, Thailand

83. KhonKhaneporguntee  Group , Thailand

84. KKC  KKC Students Association, Thailand

85. The International Service for Human Rights ( ISHR )

86. Awaj Foundation, Bangladesh

87. Women’s Studies Center, Chiang Mai University, Thailand

88. Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development (FORWARD)

89. Green Advocates International, Liberia

90 . Payday Men’s Network, UK

91. PINAY Quebec, Canada

92. The Community Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Collective in Thailand

93. Community Resources Centre (CRC) Thailand

94. Isaan Land Reform Network, Thailand

95. DuayJairak Group Thailand

96. Try Arm” Underwear “Fair Trade Fashion”, Thailand

97. ENLAW Foundation, Thailand

98. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Thailand

99. Labor network for people’s rights, Thailand

100. Aliran, Malaysia