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

  • Hun Sen to ‘step down’ if he loses Sam Rainsy bet over Kem Sokha

    Hun Sen has promised to step down as prime minister while opposition figure Sam Rainsy pledges to turn himself in as forfeits if the long-term political rivals lose a “bet” over the future of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, who is on bail awaiting trial

  • UAE prince seeks to invest in Cambodia

    The UAE has expressed interest in Cambodian oil and gas exploration. Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem said this was the result of his discussions with Sheikh Ahmed bin Dalmook bin Juma al-Maktoum, a member of the royal family who visited him on Wednesday.

  • Smith calls for ‘release’ of Sokha as visit ends

    At a press conference to conclude her 11-day visit to Cambodia, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith on Thursday called for treason charges against former opposition leader Kem Sokha to be dropped and for him to be released from “restricted detention”.

  • PM denies ‘nepotism’ claims

    Prime minister Hun Sen denied on Thursday that nepotism was involved in the recent promotions of the children of senior government officials. He said they had been “trained” and were entirely capable of carrying out their duties while being open to “punishment” like anyone else.