Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Passport fee latest wrinkle in factory workers’ Thai plight

Passport fee latest wrinkle in factory workers’ Thai plight

Passport fee latest wrinkle in factory workers’ Thai plight

A rights group has raised concerns that up to 100 Cambodian migrant workers at a Thai seafood processing factory will be stranded abroad in less than a week without any income because they cannot afford to pay a passport fee demanded by their employer.

Of the 700 Cambodian workers at the Phatthana Seafood factory in Thailand’s Sonkhla province, 20 to 30 per cent were undocumented and unable to pay the 6,500 baht (US$210) fee for passports, a Cambodian Legal Education Center report released on Tuesday states.

If they had not payed by Monday, May 7, their jobs would be terminated next Tuesday, the report claims.

Joel Preston, a CLEC consultant who visited the factory in April, said with no passports to return home, they would be stranded in Songkhla with work registration that does not allow them to leave the province.

“They’ll be stuck there without a job, without employment, and they won’t be able to flee Songkhla province without [Cambodian] assistance,” he said.

The area was a renowned seafood industry hub and there were “major” concerns the undocumented workers could be trafficked onto notoriously exploitative and dangerous Thai fishing boats, Preston said.

The undocumented workers had either been directly solicited by Phatthana Seafood or brought by illegal brokers, the CLEC report stated.

But Cambodian Ambassador You Ay said yesterday she had also visited the factory last month and that any problems there had already been resolved.

“I assure you that everything is settled for the Phatthana case,” she said. “In the factory, there are no undocumented workers.”

Worker representative Sor Song said yesterday that conditions at the factory had improved significantly since they negotiated a 266 baht daily wage last month but confirmed undocumented workers were being forced to pay the 6,500 baht fee.

“Right now, we are staying and work in better working conditions than at home as well. Before, [the factory] was very dirty. But now it is so clean. They let us rent suitable houses,” he said.

Documented workers were sent there by Cambodian recruitment firm CDM Trading Manpower and have claimed they have not been provided free housing and food promised in contracts they were never given a copy of.

The report argues that Phatthana Seafood and CDM Trading Manpower have violated laws in their respective countries.

CDM Trading Manpower could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Phatthana Seafood has not replied to repeated inquiries from the Post.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]
Sen David at [email protected]

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