Nov 11, 2012

Thailand - Migration under AEC threatens Thai way of life

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I read with great interest in The Nation on October 31 a letter written by Michael Meakus, who had responded to "PM outlines eight strategies for AEC 2015". I support Mr Meakus' warning, which must be heeded.

In the UK we have left it far too late. It is only now, when the flood gates have been breached with immigration that our Minister Theresa May is in desperation examining and seeking curbs on the free movement of workers, including access to the UK for dependants of EU citizens, and fresh curbs on access to benefits for EU citizens. She seeks wide-ranging curbs because we in the UK have learnt our lesson too late and we are sinking fast under the weight of immigration.

Asean integration I believe is a wonderful thing, but has to be approached with great care. It had been thought there was little momentum to review the free movement of EU workers on the basis that it is such a central pillar of the EU's founding principles. Theresa May believes there are reforms that could be made in part to reverse previous European court of justice judgements that have in effect redefined free movement as available to citizens rather than merely workers. This can happen to Thailand and the outcome cannot be imagined by most of the population until it happens, but the migration effects everything that has developed in a country over centuries, and values by all get diluted. The migration burden can be destructive.

May is struggling to reach her aim of cutting the overall number of immigrants to the UK to below 100,000, partly due to her inability to slap any direct controls, or it appears any controls, on EU migrants. EU migration accounted for 27 per cent of total UK net immigration in 2010, a majority of which came from the Eastern European states that joined the EU in 2004.This is the path Thailand is taking with Asean integration. It should study the data that the UK has and avoid these pitfalls.

The Thai culture and way of life is at risk. We in the UK have seen dramatic changes to our way of life. It is possible that soon small areas in Thai townships will become mini-towns of Cambodians, Malaysians, populated areas of people and families from Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam. This has happened in cities and small townships in the UK with Eastern Europeans.

I have nothing against such integration, and the Asean programme is good in the long term, but care has to be taken that is better thought out than what happened in the UK.

It is estimated there were just over two million nationals of other EU member states living in the UK in the year to March 2011. I think the number is underestimated, as we have seen dramatic changes in England with immigrants now introducing their ways and building their families and mingling. Most English people have respect for those immigrants, yet contempt for the tens of thousands of jobs they have taken, the tens of thousands of homes they occupy, the burden on our health system, and other welfare systems.

All I can say is that I support the well-written letter from Michael Meakus, and politicians in Thailand must look at what has happened in the UK, a perfect model to guide them.

Eddie Bowcott

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