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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand cancels quota for Cambodian workers

Thailand cancels quota for Cambodian workers

Having allowed up to 10,000 Cambodian migrant workers into Thailand last year, a quota that was only about 25 percent filled, Bangkok has decided in the face of growing domestic unemployment that no further workers will be allowed in, a directive that is unlikely to stop illegals

Migrant Blockade

  • Quota of 10,000 Cambodians permitted to work in Thailand last year
  • Only 2,116 Cambodians applied to work in 2008
  • Only 200 new Cambodian migrant workers have gone to work in Thailand this year
  • No more allowed to enter for work at this time
  • 8,321 Cambodians working legally in Thailand
  • Estimated 60,000 to 200,000

    illegal Cambodians working in Thailand

  • 2 million Thais unemployed

Source: Thai and Cambodian governments

THAILAND has stopped accepting legal Cambodian migrant workers, despite a 2003 memorandum of understanding in which the two countries agreed to accept each others' workers, said the Cambodian government.

In response, the government has vowed to open up work options elsewhere in the region.

In 2008, only 2,116 Cambodian labourers applied to work legally in Thailand out of a quota of 10,000, according to An Bunhak, chairman of the Association for Cambodian Recruitment Agencies.

This year, only 200 new Cambodian workers were sent to Thailand before it ended the quota system.

In total, there are currently 8,231 Cambodian migrants working legally in Thailand, according to the Cambodian government.

Though exact numbers are unavailable, this number is dwarfed by the estimated 60,000 to 200,000 illegal Cambodian workers in Thailand.

With 2 million Thai citizens facing unemployment, Thailand did not want unskilled Cambodian labour taking jobs, An Bunhak said.

Seng Sakda, director general at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said it was not surprising that Thailand had ended its Cambodian labour quota given the economic crisis.

In recent months, with a looming recession in the Kingdom, many more Cambodians are looking for work abroad, according to Ung Seang Rithy, president of Ung Seang Rithy Group Co, which sends labourers abroad.

On Monday, he said that his company had received more applications than before the downturn, but with few contacts in other countries, the most likely place he could send Cambodians was back home.

"We are trying to look for new job markets for Cambodian labourers who wish to work abroad, but we do not expect to be able to send a lot because we are still not experienced in working with other countries," he said.

In order to avoid exacerbating Cambodia's own unemployment by not being able to send workers abroad, An Bunhak said that Cambodia was looking to Hong Kong, Macau and Kuwait to send itinerant labourers.

According to a report of the Association for Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, legal labourers in Thailand - most of whom work in factories and construction sites - receive an average payment of between US$180 and $400 per month, but An Bunhak thinks workers could make even more elsewhere.

"If we can find new markets like Hong Kong and Macau, our labourers will get from $500 to $600 per month," said An Bunhak.

Even if the government can open other markets, Seng Sakda said he would still do what he could to restore a quota for Cambodian labourers.

"We will raise the problem when we talk with Thailand in a bilateral meeting between ministers of the two countries next month. We will request a quota to send Khmer labourers to work there," said Seng Sakda.

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