Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian migrants to Thailand still lack papers: IOM

Cambodian migrants to Thailand still lack papers: IOM

Migrant workers have their photos taken for work permits in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Poipet in 2014.
Migrant workers have their photos taken for work permits in the Thai-Cambodian border town of Poipet in 2014. Hong Menea

Cambodian migrants to Thailand still lack papers: IOM

The vast majority of Cambodian migrant workers to Thailand are continuing to use unofficial channels to enter the country, choosing not to use a passport or worker permit due to the high cost and long wait times, according to a survey released on Monday.

Tens of thousands of undocumented Cambodian workers were deported en masse from Thailand in 2014, but the survey – conducted by the International Organization for Migration – shows that two years later, almost 80 per cent of migrants still eschew documentation.

Only 22 per cent of respondents used a passport to process their job applications, with most preferring to use irregular channels to cross the border and register for non-Thai identity cards, bypassing the time-consuming approval needed by the Cambodian Embassy.

“Thus, there is no incentive to stay in Cambodia to go through legal recruitment under the current MoU [memorandum of understanding] process for Cambodian workers to migrate to Thailand,” the report reads.

The IOM surveyed over 600 workers who have returned to Cambodia since Thailand’s military junta took power in 2014.

However, leaving Cambodia through unofficial channels had its drawbacks, the survey found. Of the 19.5 per cent of workers who faced abuse or bad working and living conditions in Thailand, an overwhelming 80 per cent were undocumented.

The survey also showed that a lack of job prospects, low salaries and financial debt were the main drivers for immigration to Thailand, with the high costs attached to acquiring documents being the top reason for workers lacking a passport or identification card.

Moeun Tola, head of labour rights NGO Central, said the crux of the issue was the government’s failure to provide employment opportunities to citizens combined with passport and visa formalities still being “too complicated”.

“So for those who are undocumented, the employers don’t pay them the minimum wage or overtime and threaten workers with deportation if they object,” he added.

Workers with proper documentation, on average, received close to the minimum wage of 300 baht (a little under $10) a day, whereas those without documents got about $5.70, according to Tola.

Andy Hall, an international affairs adviser at the Thailand-based Migrant Rights Network, said the inflow of undocumented workers was a major problem, and agreed with the report’s finding that certain sectors were worse than others.

But, he added, the potential for abuse “is a risk factor, even for the ones who come through legal channels”.

Top Neth, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s identification department, conceded that the cost of a passport was high in Cambodia, close to $115, but said workers could use a worker’s travel document, which was much cheaper.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the