Understanding the Gaps Between the Bilateral Regularization of Migration and Workers' Rights: The Case of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Thailand

Sudarat Musikawong


ASEAN agricultural workers represent one of the most vulnerable groups of workers regardless of citizenship. While bilateral agreements focus on general migration governance mechanisms, the specifics of agricultural workers’ rights and protections fall outside their scope. Due to the seasonal nature of crossborder agriculture, these are flexible precarious workers readily available to employers in the borderlands that often do not invest in worker health and social security. The Article reveals how foreign migrant agricultural workers with and without work permits continue to fall between the gaps of national labor protection laws, due to both legal structural exclusions as well as the particular vulnerabilities of being noncitizen workers in remote, unsafe workplaces. This Article documents some of the developments during 2017- 2019 in migrant employment in export cash crops. The next challenge for the future is developing mechanisms for bilateralism to lower migration costs, with a commitment to genuinely safe migration, as well as the establishment of long-term equitable working conditions for all migrant workers. The major findings demonstrate how the two main reasons for the discrepancies between the BLA and labor protections have to do with the noninterventionist approach of ASEAN and a series of technical exclusions in Thailand’s labor law and regulation.

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