New Thai regulations imposing stiff punishments on undocumented migrants, their brokers and their employers set to come into force on January 1 will likely be delayed by three to six months, according to Cambodian Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Sam Heng said that he had met last week with the Thai Ministry of Labour, which had agreed that the postponement was necessary to accommodate the legalisation process.
In June a Thai Royal Decree imposed fines of up to $3,000 and possible jail time on undocumented workers, and hefty fines on their brokers and employers. The decree prompted thousands of migrant workers – many of them Cambodian – to stream back into their countries of origin.
After backlash from stakeholders, the Thai government implemented a grace period ending December 31 to allow workers to get documented.
Sam Heng said the Cambodian Labour Ministry had started facilitating legalisation in Thailand in the “late third quarter” of the year, and more than 420,000 Cambodians were still waiting to be legalised.
“Myanmar and Laos are having the same problem,” he said. “[The Thai government] will discuss . . . to postpone it by three to six months until we legalise all of our workers.”
An official of the Thai Ministry of Employment’s Foreign Workers Administration, who requested anonymity as they are not allowed to speak to the press, said the Thai cabinet would meet today to discuss the extension and an official announcement would follow. “The announcement will not be later than the end of the year,” the employee said.
The Bangkok Post reported that Thai Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo will ask the cabinet to extend the deadline until the end of June.
Cambodian migrant worker Vuth Vuy, 24, said he only had a passport and wasn’t completely legalised yet.
“But I don’t have much concern about legal documents, as I’ve lived in Thailand for many years, so it’s easy for me to escape when the punishment starts,” he said, adding that it was complicated, costly and time-consuming to become legal. “The postponing is good news for migrant workers who just came to work in Thailand, as they have more time to apply for legal document.”
According to local media reports, the Thai government is also considering reducing the punishments for workers, though the Thai Ministry of Labour has yet to confirm this.
Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski