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Migrant workers wait to be processed at a registration centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand last month.
Migrant workers wait to be processed at a registration centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand last month. HRDF Thailand

Ministry in migrant push

The Cambodian Labour Ministry is stepping up its efforts to legalise undocumented migrants in Thailand, and is considering using a similar model in Malaysia.

The government aims to legalise about 160,000 Cambodians in Thailand in response to a new law passed that imposes strict punishments on undocumented migrant workers and their employers.

“A committee sent four mobile working groups to about 200 factories,” Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng said, adding that fees were about $30 for registration and about $70 for passports.

Yet, according to a Thai database, almost 7,700 undocumented Cambodians will have to return to the Kingdom, having failed interviews to become documented after registering with the Employment Department.

While yesterday was the last official day for interviews, thousands of Cambodian, Myanmar and Lao nationals still had not been interviewed as of yesterday evening. However, an Employment Department official, speaking anonymously as he was not allowed to speak to the press, said the government “unofficially” expected the screening to continue until mid-September.

Sam Heng, meanwhile, said yesterday that the process could serve as an example. “If the legalisation campaign for migrant workers is successful in Thailand, the Cambodian Government is thinking to process the legalisation of Cambodian migrant workers in Malaysia as well,” he said.

But Dy The Hoya, of labour rights group Central, remained sceptical. “Some workers didn’t get any information,” he said, adding that some often paid about $120 to $150 for someone to help them with the complicated application process.

Adrian Pereira, a coordinator for North-South Initiative in Malaysia, said undertaking a similar programme would prove difficult in Malaysia, as migrant workers who entered the country undocumented by law could not become legalised under current rules.

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