THE Thai government will meet today to discuss the fates of more than 500,000 migrant workers who face deportation after missing a deadline to reapply for work permits and initiate participation in the controversial nationality-verification process, the Human Rights and Development Foundation said Tuesday.
Andy Hall, director of the foundation’s Migrant Justice Programme, said he hoped the meeting would address the problems faced by migrant workers in the aftermath of last week’s deadline.
“The [Thai government] has to accept that the nationality-verification policy, although potentially workable, is failing because of its poor implementation,” he said.
March 2 was the deadline for the roughly 1.3 million registered migrants in Thailand to reapply for work permits and enter the process of nationality verification, wherein they were to submit forms to their home governments in order to secure new work permits in Thailand.
Bangkok has said it plans to deport any workers who are unregistered or who missed the deadline. Some 51,449 of the 124,092 registered Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand failed to reapply in time, along with 506,035 workers from Myanmar and Laos.
Hall said Thai officials meeting today needed to consider whether their country could afford to lose such a large amount of labour.
“Thailand needs these migrants, as they are crucial to the Thai economy, making up at least 5 percent of the workforce,” he said, adding that migrants do some of the country’s most dangerous and demanding jobs while making significantly less money than most Thais.
Meanwhile, Thailand will imprison and hand out heavy fines to any migrant workers who attend mass antigovernment rallies in Bangkok this weekend, Thai labour minister Phaitoon Kaeothong said Tuesday.
Migrants would be subject to five-year jail terms and fines of up to 100,000 baht (US$3,100) if found among Red Shirt protesters loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Demonstrations are due to begin in the capital on Sunday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP