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Posts Tagged ‘Burma’

22nd August 2013

In what could be described as a watershed moment for United States-Myanmar relations, these two countries held their first joint human trafficking discussions officially dubbed the U.S.-Myanmar Trafficking in Persons dialogue. The discussions were held on August 1, 2013 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. Myanmar Police Chief Major General Zaw Win and United States Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca headed the Myanmar and United States’ delegations. These events were reported in an August 19th Press Release from the American State Department. To quote from the recent State Department Press Release:

In-depth discussions covered a variety of human trafficking issues, including forced labor, sex trafficking, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, with particular focus on the importance of employing a victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking, the need to show concrete results in holding to account perpetrators of all forms of trafficking, and the benefits of robust government-civil society partnerships. Both governments agreed the dialogue was very productive and pledged their continued commitment to enhanced cooperation in addressing this serious crime and human rights issue under the auspices of the United States-Myanmar Joint Plan on Trafficking in Persons.

Human trafficking is a serious issue to American policymakers as well as their counterparts in the various nations which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Many of the ASEAN members states (Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) have struggled with human trafficking and have promulgated policies to thwart would-be traffickers and provide assistance to the victims of this insidious international scourge. It is promising to see the United States engaging Myanmar on this issue as recent history has seen Myanmar maintaining a rather aloof stance towards both the United  States and the international community as a whole. Hopefully, this recent meeting will garner further cooperation between the United States and the Union of Myanmar on this issue as the eradication of human trafficking would prove to be not only a benefit to the people of each of these countries, but also to the region and the world. It could be argued that by engaging Myanmar in a discussion of this issue the United States is not only highlighting Myanmar’s importance geopolitically, but also that country’s potential to curtail human trafficking on a regional scale. Should this meeting result in any decrease (whether large or small) in human trafficking, then this initial dialogue must be viewed as a success. Hopefully the day will come when human trafficking is no longer the problem that it is at this time.

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17th August 2013

In previous postings on this blog the issues related to same sex marriage in the United States, and the immigration benefits connected thereto have been discussed. However, discussion about how same sex marriage is viewed in the eyes of the law in Thailand has been comparably brief. As of the time of this writing, there would seem to be a growing movement to legalize same sex unions in Thailand following a recent case involving two same sex partners who attempted to register their union in Thailand in much the same manner as different-sex couples. To quote directly from the Asia Times website:

Last year, Nathee Theeraronjanapong (55) and his partner Atthapon Janthawee (38) decided to make their 20-year relationship legal. Citing section 1448 of Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code, which deems same-sex marriage unlawful, the head of registrations in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai handed the couple a letter of denial…

An English translation of Section 1448 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code reads as follows:

A marriage may take place only when the man and woman have completed their seventeenth year of age. But the Court may, with appropriate reason, allow them to marry before attaining such age.

In much the same way that Section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) only Federally recognized marriages between a man and a woman (notwithstanding the fact that some States recognized such unions) the governing laws of the Kingdom of Thailand only recognize marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex. Notwithstanding the law’s view of this issue, it should be noted that the Kingdom of Thailand remains one of the most tolerant jurisdictions in Asia when it comes to issues of race, religion, creed, and sexuality. Thailand has a significant and thriving LGBT community and even in the workplace the sexual preferences of employees are considered personal matters. This stands in stark comparison to the atmosphere in other Asian countries and even other jurisdictions within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To quote from the website of Inter Press Service News Agency:

Sodomy is criminalised in six member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – namely, Brunei, Burma, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Marawi City in the Philippines and the South Sumatra Province of Indonesia.

At a very early stage compared to other nations around the world (including the United States), in 1956 Thailand repealed the law making sodomy illegal thereby permitting intimate consensual relationships between consenting adults of the same sex. This decision placed Thailand among the most progressive nations in Asia (and the world) on the issue of LGBT equality.

However, it would appear that implementing policies to allow same sex marriage in Thailand is a more daunting endeavor. Many outsiders view Thailand as having a somewhat laissez-faire, perhaps even libertarian view, on social issues. In fact, many Thais are very conservative in their opinions, especially Thais of the older generations. This is not to say that such people are intolerant as many Thais maintain very conservative personal opinions while simultaneously remaining tolerant regarding the decisions and life choices of others (a dichotomy which makes Thailand such a wonderful and interesting place to live). However, this dichotomy must be taken into consideration by those pressing for changes to the Thai marriage laws as the Inter Press News Agency noted:

Danai Linjongrat, executive director of the Rainbow Sky Association, has been urging caution in the drafting of the civil union bill, so that it will not inadvertently fan the flames of intolerance and heighten regional stigmatisation of the LGBTIQ community. “We are looking for a bill that equalises all relationships,” he told IPS. “For example, the current marriage law grants heterosexual couples the right to marry once they reach the legal age of 17, but for LGBTIQ people the legal marriage age would be 20 years old.”

This blogger feels that it is likely that the rules regarding registration of marriage for same sex couples in Thailand will change at some point in the future. As the younger generation grows older it stands to reason that many will feel that the current legal prohibitions on same sex marriage are antiquated. Furthermore, Thai lawmakers often maintain a deep sense of pragmatism when it comes to issues which may impact tourism and foreign capital investment in the country. Should same sex marriages be permitted in Thailand, the already large LGBT tourism sector would likely grow due to others from Asia (and around the globe) traveling to Thailand to register their marriages. Also, those foreign nationals with a Thai same sex spouse would be more likely to bring their assets to a jurisdiction which recognizes their union as such a jurisdiction would provide ancillary benefits regarding issues such as estate planning, healthcare decision making, and taxation. Although LGBT equality is a human rights issue and not strictly one of economics, the economic component of the same sex marriage debate is one that lawmakers are likely to take seriously. The conclusion of the same sex marriage debate in Thailand remains to be seen, but a rational debate of this issue in Thailand is a good start.

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9th August 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional bloc which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, celebrated it’s 46th birthday. To quote directly from the website thepeninsulaqatar.com:

DOHA: Ambassadors of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Qatar were in accord, saying Asean will meet its target to integrate the 10 nations’ economies by end of 2015, as they celebrated the 46th Asean Day yesterday at the Vietnam Embassy…Singapore Ambassador Wong Kwok Pun cited some areas that Asean has made progress on the implementation of the Asean Charter. In particular, he pointed out Asean has made headway on disputes settlement mechanism, has been working towards the implementation of the roadmap for the Asean community, and taken big steps toward an integrated and sustained economic development…

The implementation of policies which would create an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has been an oft-discussed topic among business and legal professionals throughout Southeast Asia. This issue is such a significant topic because by creating a unified Southeast Asian marketplace the countries which comprise ASEAN would become one of the largest markets in the world virtually overnight. That stated, there is a great deal of debate as to whether or not the transition into a unified market will occur smoothly. Some argue that the disparate laws, regulations, and policies throughout the ASEAN member states will not easily coalesce into a workable framework for businesses to operate in the region until governments in ASEAN can implement local policies to bring their regulations in line with the other ASEAN nations. On the  other hand, some argue that because ASEAN leaders have adopted a slow approach to integrating the ASEAN economies the nations which comprise this trading bloc will be able to integrate within the larger body relatively quickly.

Of further concern to both foreign nationals as well as nationals from ASEAN member nations is the promulgation of a single ASEAN visa scheme. Presently, there is not a single visa which one can obtain which would allow the bearer to travel unfettered throughout the the whole of ASEAN. However, leaders in some of the ASEAN countries are looking to remedy this. To quote from the website aseanvisa.com:

Ministers and tourism authorities of the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Indonesia have expressed their intention to collaborate with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders to facilitate travel in the region by developing a common smart visa system…According to www.smartvisa.travel, a smart visa is a digital paperless substitute for a traditional visa that can be obtained by a traveler from a travel agent or participating airline…

Clearly, steps are being taken to create some sort of travel document which would provide immigration benefits in multiple ASEAN nations simultaneously. The impetus behind the push for a single ASEAN visa seems to stem from two sources. First, many of the ASEAN nations would appear to view an ASEAN visa as a means of increasing tourism throughout ASEAN. This would appear to especially be a concern to officials in those Southeast Asian nations which do not benefit from high tourism as compared to their other ASEAN counterparts. By creating a visa which allows for access to more than one ASEAN jurisdiction tourist travel to some countries might increase as travelers are no longer deterred in making “side trips” to less popular destinations due to a desire to avoid the need to obtain another visa. Another consideration would appear to be business travel, as ASEAN economic integration continues to gather steam it stands to reason that more foreign nationals will need to visit multiple ASEAN jurisdictions in order to conduct business in the region. By implementing policies to provide for a single ASEAN visa, business travel may increase throughout the region.

The aforementioned article also mentions the recent decision by Thai and Cambodian Immigration authorities to provide a unified visa scheme for travelers wishing to visit those two countries. To quote further from the aseanvisa.com article:

It [the single ASEAN visa scheme] also builds on the single visa scheme for tourism travel between Cambodia and Thailand, which was implemented on January 1, 2013. Progressive relaxation and an Asean common visa would also benefit non-Asean nationals who intend to visit the Asean countries…

One can speculate whether or not the Thai-Cambodian visa scheme mentioned above will one day be consolidated into a pan-ASEAN visa scheme. There are certainly arguments as to the benefits of such an integration, most notably the probable increase in tourism to all of the ASEAN nations. However, one thing remains clear: it appears that virtually all leaders of the ASEAN nations are assiduously studying the ramifications of a single ASEAN visa scheme and should their findings prove that such a scheme would be a benefit to all of ASEAN; then it is likely that such a scheme will eventually come into existence.

For related information please see: Thailand visa.

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16th September 2012

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that leaders from the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (sometimes colloquially referred to as Burma) are set to travel to the United States of America. In fact, popular pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi appears poised to make a sojourn to the US, her first in some time. To quote directly from the official website of Voice of America, voanews.com:

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is set to embark on a visit to the United States, highlighted by awards and meetings with senior U.S. government leaders and the Burmese community… In her first trip to the United States in two decades, Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be given awards for her long struggle for political reform in Burma and will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama…

Readers are encouraged to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full.

For those unfamiliar with the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi it should be noted that notwithstanding overwhelming adversity she has remained a staunch supporter of democracy for citizens of Myanmar and was recently elected to that nation’s lower house of parliament. However, she is not the only official from Myanmar who appears set to make a notable trip to the United States. It would appear that the current President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, is also slated to make a US voyage. In order to provide further elucidation regarding these events it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Jakarta Globe, TheJakartaGlobe.com:

Naypyidaw, Myanmar. Myanmar leader Thein Sein is to visit the United States for the first time as president of the fast-reforming nation, officials said Wednesday, after Washington waived visa restrictions…“The president will visit the UN and US for three days,” a Myanmar official told AFP, adding that the Myanmar leader is set to leave for the US on September 24. US President Barack Obama last month ordered an exception to a visa ban on Myanmar’s leaders to let Thein Sein travel freely during the UN summit…

The administration of this web log asks that readers click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail.

Those unfamiliar with current US-Myanmar relations should note that there are a number of restrictions placed upon Burmese leaders when it comes to US travel. Some could speculate that the exception granted to the President of Myanmar in the form of a visa waiver could be a sign of an increased desire to normalize relations between the somewhat reclusive member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the USA. That said, the future status of relations between the US and Myanmar remains to be seen.

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20th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that it appears Malaysia (a member nation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN) will not be hosting other ASEAN nations at the Langkawi International Dialogue (LID). To provide further insight it may be best to quote directly from an article written by M. Saraswathi and posted on the website Bernama.com:

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (Bernama) — There are no plans to include Asean nations in the Langkawi International Dialogue (LID) as it will be too big to manage, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today. Malaysia would maintain the present dialogue format between the African and Caribbean countries, he said. “No. We don’t want too many countries to be involved. We will maintain the present format of African and Caribbean countries,” he said when asked if Malaysia intends to include Asean countries in LID at a press conference here today. This year’s dialogue is being attended by African leaders such as Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili of Lesotho, Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso, Ugandan Vice-President Edward Sekandi and Kenyan Vice-President Stephen Kalonzo…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the appropriate hyperlinks noted above to learn more from this insightful article.

In this blogger’s opinion, one of the positive aspects of the ASEAN community, for the membership, is a sort of general flexibility. It could be inferred from the quotation above that Malaysia has a strong trade relationship with certain countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Such relationships make the Malaysian economy rather unique compared to her other counterparts in the ASEAN community. This uniqueness would seem to create various levels of comparative advantage for the Malaysian economy. Concurrently, the other jurisdictions of ASEAN (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) are able to receive a kind of refractive benefit from Malaysia’s strong trade relations in Africa and the Caribbean since ASEAN nations are able to streamline their direct trading with Malaysia herself. How ASEAN will evolve in the future remains to be seen, but it is clear that ASEAN is quite unique amongst the various regional organizations around the globe. Hopefully, this uniqueness will result in tangible benefits for the citizenry of the various ASEAN countries and for ASEAN’s trading partners as well.

On a related note, China was in the news recently as it is being reported that China is expanding her foreign reserves into non-dollar denominated assets. To shed further light upon these developments it may be best to quote directly from an article written by Jamil Anderlini and Tracy Alloway and posted to the Financial Times website, FT.com:

China began diversifying away from the US dollar in earnest in the first four months of this year, most likely by buying far more European government debt than US dollar assets, according to estimates from Standard Chartered Bank. China’s foreign exchange reserves expanded by around $200bn in the first four months of the year, with three-quarters of the new inflow invested abroad in non-US dollar assets, the bank estimated. “It certainly appears that China’s finally following through on its policy to diversify its foreign reserve holdings away from the US dollar,” said Stephen Green, the bank’s chief China economist.

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to find out further details. Frequent readers of this web log may recall that the United States and China are apparently cooperating with regard to ASEAN engagement, but this news came amidst announcements that China had divested rather sizable holdings in US Treasuries. As China continues to show further economic dominance on the global stage it will likely prove interesting to see how this nation invests her financial resources. Hopefully as China and ASEAN continue their economic growth it will accrue to the benefit of all concerned.

For information related to immigration from Asia please see: K1 Visa Thailand or Legal.

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2nd June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has expressed some concern about the possibility of the Union of Myanmar (also sometimes colloquially referred to as Burma) becoming Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In order to provide further insight it may be best to quote directly from the website of Channel News Asia, ChannelNewsAsia.com:

SINGAPORE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged ASEAN to openly discuss Myanmar’s political and human rights problems before the country takes its turn as chair of the regional bloc. “Looking at the discussion about Myanmar and its interest in taking over the presidency of ASEAN, I am a little bit concerned,” she told a forum in Singapore, a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Merkel told an audience of government officials, foreign diplomats and academics that “the present leadership of Myanmar has not really proved that they are serious about embarking on the road of democracy…”

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to learn more on this topic.

The Union of Myanmar has been in the news a great deal recently as that country recently held elections ushering in something of a new era in Myanmar’s politics although there are some who argue that there has been little real change resulting from the aforementioned elections. That stated, it is this blogger’s personal opinion that any progress under the circumstances would be a good thing. Frequent readers of this blog may note that Myanmar was recently rumored to be pondering the opening of a stock exchange although that has yet to see fruition.

Meanwhile, the United States and China appear poised for cooperation in matters pertaining to ASEAN as a recent article on the Voice of America website pointed out. To quote directly from the aforementioned article:

A top State Department official says that as the United States works to deepen its engagement in Southeast Asia, working closely together with China is a key part of that effort. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says that one of the the most important things that the United States is seeking to do this year, both at the ASEAN regional forum and the East Asia Summit, is show the United States deep commitment to working with China…As the United States works to find common ground with China, the world’s second largest economy and a rising Asia-Pacific military power, Campbell says Washington will be seeking to highlight areas of common pursuit with Beijing and find specific projects the two countries can work with each other in the region…

This blogger encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks noted above to find out more.

It is good to see that American officials are making an effort to become more engaged in the ASEAN region especially with the cooperation of the Chinese since combined efforts could yield significant benefits in the form of better diplomatic and trade relations for all concerned. In a previous posting it was noted that Chinese officials plan to incorporate a high speed rail link into the current rail system employed in the Kingdom of Thailand so that there would be a contiguous rail link between Thailand, Laos, and Greater China. In addition, it was also announced that Bangkok will likely soon see a Chinese Trade Complex which is to be designed to provide a platform for the trade of goods in Thailand. How all of these developments will ultimately play out remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: there is room for optimism in a current analysis of ASEAN developments.

For related information please see: US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

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17th April 2011

This blogger recently read a rather interesting piece about the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is becoming increasingly clear that ASEAN will continue to play a key role in the regional politics of Southeast Asia notwithstanding the seemingly ever present role of domestic politics and bi-lateral relationships in all international contexts. To quote directly from a concisely written article by Amitav Acharya, American University, Washington and posted on the website EastAsiaForum.org:

ASEAN’s irrelevance or even death has been predicted several times before. At its birth in 1967, few people thought it would live to see another decade, given that the two previous attempts at regional cooperation in Southeast Asia — the Association of Southeast Asia and the MAPHILINDO (Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia) concept — ended within a few years after their creation. The Malaysia-Philippines dispute over Sabah in 1969, the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Indochina in 1975, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, have all been seen as critical blows to ASEAN. But ASEAN not only survived, it actually grew a bit stronger each time. So there is precedent, and hope, that ASEAN will be around in 2030.

But surviving is not the same as thriving. In 2030, ASEAN might keep plodding on, but will it still be a key player in regional peace, stability and prosperity in Asia? This question is more difficult to answer.

Clearly, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been a steadfast regional organization and seems likely to remain one in the future. It would appear from implications in the above quotation as if there are those who believe that dynamism must be maintained by ASEAN in the future in order to ensure continued prosperity. That stated, deftly maintaining coherent regional policies amidst intra-ASEAN tensions also appears to be of concern:

A second question about ASEAN’s future is what the state of intra-ASEAN relations will be. The ongoing skirmishes on the Thai-Cambodian border do not inspire confidence. Simmering rivalries and mistrust continue to cloud relationships between Singapore and Malaysia, Thailand and Burma, and Malaysia and Thailand. But this is a far cry from the 1960s and 1970s, and there is every reason to hope that these intra-ASEAN conflicts will not doom the organisation. They would need, however, to be managed carefully, especially with the help of existing and new mechanisms that ASEAN is currently seeking to develop.

Meanwhile, it would appear as though looking ahead at all regions of the world the prospects for some nations are not nearly as upbeat as those of ASEAN. It would appear as though tensions are arising in the countries of Saudi Arabia and Iran to the point that some commentators in the United States and on the World Wide Web are dubbing the situation a “New Cold War”.  To quote directly from an article written by Bill Spindle and Margaret Coker and posted on the Wall Street Journal‘s official website WSJ.com:

For all the attention the Mideast protests have received, their most notable impact on the region thus far hasn’t been an upswell of democracy. It has been a dramatic spike in tensions between two geopolitical titans, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This new Middle East cold war comes complete with its own spy-versus-spy intrigues, disinformation campaigns, shadowy proxy forces, supercharged state rhetoric—and very high stakes.

Those reading this blog are highly encouraged to click on the hyperlinks noted above to read further from what may prove to be an important article. Although the political and economic winds of change tend to move about the global geopolitical landscape incrementally there come times where changes can occur quite rapidly and the unfolding situation in the Middle East would appear to be evolving in unprecedented ways. That stated, if two poles of regional geopolitical power are indeed coalescing, then that would be an issue of interest for all nations throughout the world since such information can have a substantial impact upon trade, economics, and political matters in an international context. Hopefully, the current turbulence will resolve itself toward the maintenance of peace for all concerned, but such a hope may in the end prove to have been optimistic.

For related information please see: US-Thai Treaty of Amity or US Company Registration.

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22nd September 2009

The plight of many Burmese (Myanmar Nationals) living in Thailand is a sad one as many are not in any type of legal status or are simply refugees who cannot return to their home country. In a recent article, their situation was brought into sharp focus by the Thai media…and it was all due to a paper airplane. To quote the Canadian Press:

“A boy with no official nationality who lives in Thailand captured third place in a Japanese paper airplane contest Sunday after his tearful pleas to be allowed to attend prompted authorities to grant him a rare temporary passport for the event.”

It is truly inspirational when Thai people become upset due to a social injustice, because things tend to get done. Temporary passports have never been easily obtainable for people of any nationality living in Thailand, but in the case of those originally from Myanmar a request for an official travel document from the Thai government is often dismissed out of hand. The above article went further in discussing this particular situation:

“Mong’s ethnic Shan parents have only temporary permission to live and work in Thailand, so although he was born in the country he has only temporary resident status. Under normal circumstances, if he left and tried to return, his status would be revoked and he would be barred re-entry to the country where he was born.When his initial application for temporary exit papers was denied, the story dominated the front pages of Thai newspapers, and a national lawyers’ council petitioned the court on his behalf.”

Kudos to the Thai National Lawyers Council for taking up the cause of this young man. Asylees and refugees tend to have the most trouble obtaining legal documentation, particularly for travel. This article highlighted this fact and hopefully the plight of the Burmese in Thailand will be in the future thoughts of those in government positions.

It is interesting to note that this child’s family had not obtained Thai Permanent Residence. If that had been the case they may have been eligible for a Reentry Permit. Many Burmese from the Shan States of Myanmar live and work in Thailand illegally. There are certain parallels between these migrant workers and the undocumented Mexicans who enter the United States in order to work and live. Many of these people come from difficult environments in their home countries and they seek economic opportunities in Thailand or America. Although it is certainly a legal necessity to obtain proper documentation, the fact is that many people in dire circumstances do not have the time or the resources to go through the proper channels. A little bit of “give” on the part of the government can be beneficial in extenuating circumstances.

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