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New system puts Thai day-trippers on notice

Amid a mounting series of labour registration reforms that has left many workers at a loss as to the route to legal employment in Thailand, authorities there have quietly slipped in another new regulation that could impact thousands of Cambodians crossing the border each day for work.

The latest reform would grant day labourers employed in specified areas along the border a special work permit without first having to obtain a passport, Thailand’s permanent secretary for labour, Jirasak Sukhonthachat, said yesterday.

Under the previous system, thousands of merchants, vendors and farm workers traversed the border each day on weeklong “border passes”. But Thai officials claim the long-used informal system is illegal: the border passes permit visiting and shopping, but do not provide legal working rights.

Some vendors at the Rong Kluea market opposite Poipet’s border checkpoint said they are already familiar with the new process, which involves obtaining a card issued by Thai authorities for 22,000 riel ($5.50).

“Our card is valid for six months for use to and from Rung Kluea market only,” said Noun Nikida, a carter, who added that the cards started appearing in the past month or two. “If we don’t have it, we will be regarded as illegal.”

Thailand has sought to overhaul its migrant labour policies since the junta took power in May. Among those reforms, Thailand announced last month that it had signed agreements with its neighbours introducing temporary passes for special economic zones along the border. A timeline for the system taking effect was not revealed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment on the new system, which labour monitors say requires clarity for the sake of the workers.

“It seems that the Thai government is trying to make legal a process that is actually already happening,” said Sara Piazzano, country director of the USAID-funded Counter Trafficking in Persons CTIP II Program. “It is important to keep migrants well informed and able to easily access [the] system in order to reduce the dependency on [brokers/]middle men.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THE BANGKOK POST

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