[re] for pro-2 (선영님)

Domestic Workers Are Everywhere in Thailand but Invisible
By BRUCE LIM / IPS WRITER  Tuesday, July 29, 2008 

BANGKOK — Working in the confines of private homes, unprotected by the labor laws of the country, Thailand’s domestic workers are silently suffering.
Thailand has 64,044 registered domestic workers. But Kanokwan Moratsatian of the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) says that the actual figures may be much higher. He estimates that about a million households in the country are capable of hiring domestic help.
The fact that many domestic workers are migrants from neighboring Burma—including undocumented ones—adds to the difficulties in affording protection for them.
Implementing the existing labor legislation on informal work has also not been easy.
"Issuing laws is the quickest way but, even so, not much progress has been made," acknowledges Sureeporn Punpuing of the Social and Population Research Institute of Mahidol University.
For experts like her and others who spoke at a recent seminar on domestic workers’ rights in Thailand, organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, HomeNet-Thailand and the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, the biggest hurdle in providing protection has been the fact that, unlike factory workers or other employees in the work force, domestic workers are not easy to reach.
"Investigators cannot enter homes as they are private territories," said Moratsatian.
Domestic workers in Thailand are not covered by social security, although a policy to include them in the net is being put up. There is no fixed minimum wage nor mandated day-offs, other than an annual six-day vacation.
While Thai citizens are covered by the national health insurance plan free of charge, migrant workers have to pay an annual fee of 1,900 baht (US $57.5) and an additional 30 baht (91 cents) per service.
Rujisa Saenwi from the Foundation of Health and Knowledge of Ethnic Labour recalled some of the ways the group has tried to reach out to domestic workers. She said, "in the past, we would only hear about their problems when they come to us or at gatherings. In order to have constant contact with them, we opened a P.O. box." 
But the idea was proved to be unsuccessful as the foundation "received a very few letters over the months," Saenwi said. Perhaps this was because it was hard for domestic workers to leave their homes to mail letters.
Given the different work environments of domestic labor, several discussants suggested giving equal importance to educating and sensitizing employers so that they understand that domestic workers are people who have the same basic rights as other employees.
Poonsap Tulaphan of HomeNet said, "it’s not just making laws but also changing the perception of the people." 
Addressing the seminar participants, Somjit, a domestic worker for more than 20 years, said: "Working for foreigners is better. They treat you better and also pay you for overtime work."
A survey conducted by the Social and Population Research Institute of Mahidol University showed that 60 percent of domestic workers were prohibited from meeting people outside the household and 75 percent were not allowed to leave the household freely. Half of the employers were found to think that they had the right to restrain workers’ movements and withhold their identity cards.
"There were many domestic workers that don’t have day-offs or were not allowed to go out," Rujisa added. "They also fear talking to the employers and would often wait until the employers seem to be in a lighter mood before approaching them."
A survey by the Social and Population Research Institute on 500 domestic workers in Mae Sot province near Thailand’s border with Burma, where many Burmese migrants work, showed that seven percent of the domestic workers were not paid for overtime work and 85 percent received less than 3,000 baht ($ 91) a month, the minimum wage for Thai workers in the area.
While some might argue that the food and shelter provided by employers count for the compensation, activists say that a large portion of domestic workers’ meals were sub-standard and consisted mainly of leftover food. "Twenty percent of these workers had no privacy and slept on the floor," Sureeporn added.
The FCD has been organizing discussions with employer groups, child labor groups and others. It has published articles on domestic workers’ rights through print as well as other media, such as community radio. The foundation also focuses on improving the home environment such as by educating children to raise their awareness and acceptance of workers’ rights.
Asked why there are only portrayals of the negative cases and problems around domestic work, Sureeporn said: "We are presenting only the negative because we want change. We have to go deep into the source of the problem. It is seen that if the employer is good, we wouldn’t have so many problems."
"Domestic work is an important source of income for women with low education," explained Tim De Meyer, a specialist on international standards from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), who attended the seminar.
De Meyer said that domestic workers, estimated to number over a 100 million, formed one of the "largest yet unprotected segments of the global workforce".