The Ministry of Labour yesterday launched a 100-day campaign to legalise undocumented migrant workers who could face fines and imprisonment in Thailand when a harsh new immigration law goes into effect, according to Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng.
After a meeting with the Thai Labour Ministry in Bangkok, Sam Heng said the Thai government will open almost 90 centres in Thailand to issue temporary identity cards valid for six months.
He said the centres would issue the identity cards for 15 days between July 24 and August 7. Ten centres will be based in Bangkok, and one in each of the 76 Thai provinces.
He also announced that the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, which normally does not provide passport services, will issue passports for the upcoming six months before harsh punishments for illegal migrants and for employers go into effect at the end of the year.
He said a normal passport would cost about $28, while it would cost about $75 for an expedited passport obtained within a day. Within 100 days, the Cambodian government will try to legalise 160,000 undocumented migrants, he said.
Ith Samheng said there are 1,050,000 Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand, of whom 300,000 are undocumented. He said that 40,000 Cambodians worked in the fishery sector.
“The Ministry of Labour of Thailand just brought this new law to the National Assembly, and they delayed the enforcement of this law until January 1, 2018,” he said. “They told me that the Thai government has no intention to deport Cambodian migrant workers.”
Still, Poipet border police officer Sin Namyong said that more than 500 workers returned from Thailand yesterday and 772 did so on Wednesday. This brings the total number of returnees to at least 6,300 since returns first spiked on June 28.
The Thai law imposes imprisonment and fines of up to $3,000 on undocumented workers, and hefty fines on employers. After a backlash from stakeholders, the Thai government backtracked temporarily and suspended the implementation of fines until December 31.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release outlining its efforts to “find a solution to the recent chaotic situation affecting the Cambodian workers in Thailand”.
“The Ministry wishes to make known that the top leader of the Royal Government of Cambodia is intervening with the Thai government in order to find a suitable solution to this situation.”