Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Migrant deadline passes in Thailand

Migrant deadline passes in Thailand

Migrant workers wait for immigration forms to be processed at a Poipet checkpoint at the Thai-Cambodia border last year.
Migrant workers wait for immigration forms to be processed at a Poipet checkpoint at the Thai-Cambodian border last year. Hong Menea

Migrant deadline passes in Thailand

A last-minute rush of largely Cambodian, Burmese and Laotian undocumented workers is expected to descend today on Thailand’s one-stop service centres for visas and work permits (OCCS), as Thai authorities yesterday signalled a crackdown on illegal labour.

More than 100,000 Cambodian workers in Thailand could face arrest and deportation after the deadline for reapplying for a work permit extension came and went yesterday.

“There are a significant number of workers at risk of arrest and deportation, or as usual, arrest, extortion and release … [among] the most prominent features of Thai migration policy for decades now,” said Thailand-based migrant expert and workers’ rights advocate Andy Hall.

The Thai government had previously pushed back a March 31 deadline, giving undocumented workers until yesterday to extend their work permits for a year, in which time they were expected to be issued passports by their respective governments.

Hall added it was simply “not possible” to re-register the huge number of workers in time, raising the possibility of a repeat of last year’s mass exodus, when some 225,000 Cambodian workers fled back across the border after the Thai junta cracked down on illegal migrants.

According to figures from Thailand’s Office of Foreign Workers Administration, 738,947 Cambodian migrants, 696,338 workers and 42,609 dependents registered at OCCSs last year.

Of these, 173,467 had the correct documents. As of June 22, a further 391,628 had reapplied for a work permit.

This leaves more than 130,000 at risk of deportation.

Quoted by Thai state media yesterday, Thailand’s Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour Sumet Mahosot warned that the Department of Employment would start monitoring workplaces and penalising employers and employees who missed the deadline.

Mahosot said 990,716 migrants had renewed their permits as of Monday, and he expected that number to surpass one million today.

He did not, however, break down the numbers according to nationality, or indicate how many previously registered migrants were yet to reapply.

Omsin Boonlert, a Chiang Mai-based research officer for the Mekong Migration Network, said many illegal migrants were hoping that the authorities will offer a reprieve and extend the deadline again.

Boonlert said the work permit process, largely dependent on employers, was made difficult as many companies lacked “cancellation” documents from their employees former workplaces.

Prices for the renewals were also much higher than the stated rates, with brokers and officials known to add extra fees, she said.

Spokesmen for Cambodia’s Foreign and Labour Ministries could not be reached.

Banteay Meanchey Governor Korsum Saroeut reported no additional activity at the border as of yesterday.

“Now we are waiting for a decision,” said Saroeut, who sits on a recently established committee created to help Cambodian workers if deportations begin. “In 2014, we did not know anything and then Thailand sent the workers back.”

MOST VIEWED

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea