Disabled Shan Work Accident Victim to Challenge SSO Discrimination Against Migrant Workers in the Supreme Court of Thailand
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF]
29 August 2008
Today (29th August) Nang Noom Mai Seng, a 37 year old disabled Shan work accident victim, will take her challenge to the Social Security Office’s (SSO) continued refusal to provide her accident compensation from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund (WCF) to the Supreme Court. Nang Noom contends an existing SSO policy denying registered migrants like herself access to the WCF is both illegal and discriminatory.
Nang Noom’s appeal to the Supreme Court stems from a December 2006 accident at the Shangri-la Hotel in Chiangmai that left her paralysed from the waist down. In July 2007 Chiangmai SSO refused her request for accident compensation from the WCF. In January 2008 the WCF Committee then rejected her appeal against this decision, ruling that procedures for compensating migrant accident victims laid down in SSO circular รส0711/ว751 had been adhered to. Nang Noom petitioned Region Five Labour Court in February 2008 arguing circular รส0711/ว751 was illegal, discriminatory and in breach of both the Thai Constitution and international conventions ratified by the Thai Government. In July 2008 Region Five Labour Court rejected her petition however. The Court ruled that circular รส0711/ว751 was neither unlawful nor did it discriminate against migrant workers.
SSO circular รส0711/ว751 stipulates that to access compensation from the WCF, migrants must: (a) Produce registration documents and a work permit together with a passport or alien identification documents; and (b) Their employers must have paid a dividend into the WCF. Firstly, most of the estimated 2 million migrant workers in Thailand from Burma, Cambodia and Laos entered illegally without such documentation, given systems for importing Burmese migrants to work in Thailand are dysfunctional. Nang Noom, along with over 500, 000 other Burmese workers, is however currently registered with the Ministries of Interior and Labour to work ‘legally’ in Thailand. Secondly, the SSO does not allow employers of such migrant workers to pay a dividend into the WCF. WCF regulations stipulate however that all employers of one or more ‘workers’ must pay dividends into the WCF and it is the duty of the SSO to enforce payment by employers of this dividend.
Circular รส 0711/ว751 assigns responsibility to pay compensation to migrant work accident victims in all cases where conditions in the circular are not met to employers. However, data collected by the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) suggests migrants rarely access compensation from their employers and that attempts to claim this compensation through the SSO are plagued with bureaucratic difficulties. HRDF supported Nang Noom’s accident compensation claim and she received TB584, 896 from her employers. Alongside Nang Noom however, HRDF are now promoting this case as a test case for developing formal work accident compensation systems for all migrant workers in Thailand. Tomorrow’s Supreme Court challenge is in addition to the challenge against circular รส0711/ว751 filed in May 2008 at the Supreme Administrative Court and still awaiting consideration.
Somchai Homlaor, Secretary General of HRDF, states: ‘This Supreme Court challenge by Nang Noom is on behalf of two million mostly Burmese migrants currently working in Thailand in dirty and dangerous conditions. Migrants frequently suffer accidents at work but the SSO refuses to revoke circular รส0711/ว751 which unfairly pushes these victims to negotiate, generally unsuccessfully, for compensation from their employers. The current system for compensating migrant work accident victims is failing and illustrates that the SSO is neglecting to perform its legal duties for the benefit of migrant workers.’
Somchai concludes: ‘All future migrant work accident victims should receive compensation directly from the WCF, as is the procedure prescribed for Thai workers, therefore providing for a secure, transparent and just compensation system. The Thai Government must treat migrants equally to all other workers because their hard work is a benefit to our economy and they deserve security in their lives. The Government must also ensure the policies of all its Ministries do not breach non-discrimination principles enshrined both in the Thai constitution as well as in ratified international conventions. Adhering to the principle of non-discrimination reflects a genuinely civilized society and a fair system of governance.’