BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - With hundreds of thousands of migrant workers still needing to register according to the government’s timetable, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday threatened to arrest everyone who failed to do so, while criticising the Labour Ministry for what he considered “sluggish management” of the process.
Prayut reacted angrily after he learned from the chief of the ministry’s Employment Department, Anurak Thossarat, that the process had been going slow due to insufficient numbers of retina scanning machines, which already had ignited a controversy in the Cabinet.
“Why can’t you buy them? This should have been done in our last lives,” Prayut shouted, slamming his fist on the table. “You have to do everything ... if it’s not finished by June, no more exceptions will be made.
“If they [migrant workers] can’t be registered in time, they will have to be arrested,” he said.“I would like to ask people not to oppose the government in its law enforcement. We’d better cooperate. I can’t allow it if officers can’t finish their jobs in time.”
The verification is crucial to the registration process to legalise millions of migrant workers in Thailand so that they and their employers abide by the pending migrant worker management law.
Implementation of the law, initially set to be enforced last year, was postponed by a junta order following a drastic demographic shift as migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, returned to their home countries, eliciting concerns from the private sector.
The law entails harsh fines of Bt400,000 ($12,558) to Bt800,000 ($25,116) for each illegal migrant worker, to be paid by employers, while the workers could face five years in prison, fines of Bt2,000 ($62.79) to Bt100,000 ($3,139) or both.
An estimated 698,675 workers have until June 30, when the law is to be enforced, to register, which will enable them to stay in the country for another two years.
About 988,798 migrant workers had already had their nationalities verified, including 784,091 Myanmar people, 157,232 Cambodians and 47,475 Laotians, Anurak said.