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Cambodia, Thailand differ over passports

The Thai government has agreed to issue certificates of identity to — and eff-ectively legalise — the 160,000 Cambodian migrant workers there who were eligible for Thailand’s Nationality Verification process but failed to complete it before the deadline, Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

The Thai state media outlet MCOT, on the other hand, took a slightly different tack in its report on the meeting, saying Cambodian officials had agreed to come to Thailand to issue passports to the 160,000 workers, a view espoused on multiple occasions – and as recently as Sunday – by Thai labour officials.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday almost 70,000 Cambodian workers in Thailand had already been legalised, and the more than 160,000 workers still in limbo would be legalised through the iss-uance of Thai certificates of identity (CIs), allowing them to stay and work in Thailand.

“When we do a CI, it is equal to a passport,” Kuong said.

“Anyone who already has a CI, we will not issue [a passport] for them. We only issue them for those who do not have a CI.”

For those not eligible for CIs, he added, working groups between Cambodia and Thailand have decided to issue passports for them in Thailand after the date for CI issuing expired on December 14.

Labour migration expert Andy Hall, however, corroborating Thai state media, said the Thai government had simply agreed to a three-month grace period to allow Cambodian officials to issue the 160,000 workers with passports out of the Bangkok embassy.

Somkiat Chayasriwong, permanent secretary to the Thai Ministry of Labour, said as much on Sunday.

“We allow them to stay a few months, but we need some co-operation with neighbouring countries to issue passports to them,” he said.

Somkiat could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Hall said yesterday in an email that whatever the document issued, “rest assured they will generally be expensive”.

That so many Cambodians never completed the process, he added, was a result of the fact that the “Cambodian government didn’t really take the NV process seriously”.  

“A lot of those people that started to go through the process didn’t complete it because Cambodia didn’t have any people there to help,” he said.

“The history of Cambodia actually doing anything in the country to help the workers has been very poor.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at sokchea.meas@phnompenhpost.com

With assistance from Stuart White

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