The Cambodian government opened three new passport offices in an effort to speed up the documentation process for migrant workers on Monday.
At a press conference at one of the new offices, in Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey district, Ministry of Labour official Seng Sakda said the government wanted to reduce the time and expense for processing passports and travel cards.
The other two offices are in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, near the Thai border.
“The government’s principle is we want as many of our workers to work overseas as possible,” Sakda said, adding that it is the ministry’s role to get migrant workers documented so that they do not cross the border illegally or hire unlicensed brokers.
Dy The Hoya, of labour rights group Central, welcomed the new offices but said the government has to make sure service is efficient and fair.
Migrant workers on the Thai border have reported bad service in the past, including complicated procedures and widespread bribe-taking, according to The Hoya.
“The administrative process must be fair and just for workers, and [officials] must not take more money from the workers,” he said.
Read more: Voices from the border
An estimated 1.2 million Cambodians are living and working abroad, mostly in Thailand.
A recent ILO report on migrant workers in Southeast Asia found that less than 30 percent of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand migrated through official channels.
Doing so took seven times as long and was five times as expensive as unofficial channels, the report found, yet migrants experienced subsequent problems at nearly the same rates.
Updated: Wednesday 10 January, 8:28am