Some Cambodian migrant workers currently employed in Thailand are worried about an apparent tightening of labour law enforcement after some Thai companies were found to have brought workers there without proper documents, according to a prominent NGO working with the migrants in the neighbouring country.

Leung Sophon, an official at the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL) based in Thailand, said on October 17 that under Thai labour laws, Cambodian migrants working in Thailand legally have nothing to worry about.

However, Cambodians who have entered Thailand illegally or are working there illegally due to the costs related to paperwork at home or other reasons and lack the necessary documents while in Thailand may be deported. In the best case scenario, they may just pay a fine.

“As a result, undocumented workers in Thailand face many problems because the Thai government has tightened enforcement and is inspecting areas where many of them reside, and they have also encountered difficulties finding employment.

“In particular, they have difficulty moving from one place to another in places where the Thai police do not exempt them and are strictly enforcing the law,” he said.

He also said that some Thai companies were not properly complying with the Thai labour laws and had brought Cambodian workers in without proper documentation. They promised to find them jobs that never materialised even though they took money from the workers and left them stranded in Thailand, resulting in those workers losing both money and time.

“For those who come to work in Thailand, the government should consider clearer and better measures to help our people migrate safely and avoid unsafe migration.

“On the other hand, there are already a lot of workers in Thailand and I don’t know if there are enough jobs left.

“I want our workers to be educated. There are educational or vocational training programmes run by some companies that send workers abroad. But all of these firms must comply with the labour laws properly, because previously there were workers who were employed but did not have the correct visa or documents,” he said.

Sophon added that he wants to see the two governments work together to strengthen the system of migrating for work and overcome the various challenges faced by workers. In particular, he suggested that the governments facilitate the legal documentation of workers as they have complained about costly process when they are already out of work.

Chea Samphors, who works as a recruitment agent for 168 Manpower Supply, a firm which sends workers abroad legally, said on October 17 that agencies that send workers abroad without proper documents are acting irresponsibly and against the law.

“For workers going to Thailand, before departing, they don’t undergo training like they do if they are going to Japan. They just get a passport and a visa. But the workers have to pay $550 to get their travel documents and for other services in Cambodia in accordance with the law and this is too high,” she said.

She noted that her company typically sends workers to Thailand on three or four-month assignments, and then they return home and have the option of signing on again or remaining in Cambodia.

“We send the workers according to the employer’s needs. In some cases we have sent 10 to 50 workers over to chicken rice packaging departments, fish scaling or garment factories. In one month, the workers typically receive an initial base salary of between $450 and $500,” she added.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached on October 17.

But labour minister Ith Samheng has previously called on Cambodian migrant workers to avoid believing in lies and tempting fantasies peddled by human traffickers and other “unscrupulous” actors.

According to the labour ministry, there are more than 1.3 million Cambodians working abroad at present. Among them, 1.2 million of them are working in Thailand, around 45,000 in South Korea, 23,000 in Malaysia, 11,000 in Japan, 800 in Singapore, 200 in Hong Kong and 43 in Saudi Arabia.