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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Legal return means long wait

Cambodian migrants disembark from a police truck after arriving in Poipet from Thailand
Cambodian migrants disembark from a police truck after arriving in Poipet from Thailand on Friday. AFP

Legal return means long wait

Cambodian workers wishing to return to Thailand via legal channels will have to wait for nearly two months to obtain the paperwork and permits needed, a document outlining new procedures reveals.

According to the document – agreed to by the Ministry of Labour and recruitment agencies on Tuesday and obtained yesterday by the Post – workers will have to go through nine separate stages as part of a procedure facilitated by recruitment agencies. The process will cost a flat fee of $49, sparing workers onerous commission fees and salary deductions that they had to pay recruiters in the past.

But though the cost is comparatively low, the process will take 53 working days – a period likely to put off many workers who could instead use brokers to get back over the border illegally.

More than 220,000 migrants, many of them undocumented, have returned to the Kingdom out of fear since the Thai military seized power in a coup last month.

Under new procedures, workers will approach an approved recruitment agency, which will advertise licensed Thai companies that need labour.

The agency will then bring the worker to the Labour Ministry to obtain a worker ID card, which takes two days, before going to the Ministry of Interior to obtain a $4 passport, which will take 20 days to process.

Numerous other procedures ranging from three to 15 days in waiting time include the worker obtaining a Thai work permit and finally a Thai visa.

Although the procedure seems lengthy, the government is allowing recruitment agencies to facilitate much of the process on behalf of workers, said An Bun Hak, director of recruiter Top Manpower.

“We have the procedures ready, but we have to wait for the government to approve and then we will commence,” he said, adding that workers could start applying within days.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.

Though costs appear low, workers have long been able to pay bribes to cut down on processing time, said Thailand-based migration expert Andy Hall.

“It just depends on whether that process will continue or not,” he said. “It shouldn’t take 53 days. The reason it takes 53 days is because the official wants to get the money.”

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