Myanmar is confident the Thai government will allow more time for documenting an estimated one million migrant workers if the nationality verification process can't be finished by the March 16 deadline.
Myanmar's Deputy Labour Minister Myint Thein made the comments yesterday during a visit to Bangkok to assess progress in the verification programme.
He also requested that Thai authorities ensure the cost of completing the verification process is not too high.
The government earlier set a deadline of Dec 14 last year for completing the process, but cabinet decided to set a new deadline of March 16. Migrant workers not registered by then face deportation.
Myint Thein said Myanmar was also asking for visa-free privileges and passports for about 200,000 migrant children aged under 15.
Myanmar ambassador to Thailand Tin Win said about 1.2 million migrants had already completed the process and obtained their temporary passports. But more than one million people still had not registered.
"Many of the migrant workers have had to pay as much as 15,000 baht [for the process]," Tin Win said.
Myanmar collects 660 baht for documents, while Thailand collects between 1,800 and 3,000 baht depending on the length of time before a passport is due to expire, he said. He did not say where the rest of the money was going.
The ambassador suggested that if workers did not have to pay such high fees, more would have turned up and enrolled with employers for the verification process.
Myint Thein said that if Thailand could open more verification centres besides the 11 currently operating, it might be possible to register the remaining migrants.
"Reaching out to migrants, branching out more verification facilities into the communities where migrants are living is a practical way to get them to register," he said.
The deputy labour minister acknowledged that the Thai government was still reluctant to commit to a timeframe to include children in the passport process. It's also not clear whether the process would cover only the children of the remaining one million migrants, or those who completed the process last year as well. He said Myanmar had developed a migration plan to better address challenges posed by the migrant population.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat