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Thai passport offices get OK

Cambodian workers at the Daung International Checkpoint in Battambang last year.
Cambodian workers at the Daung International Checkpoint in Battambang last year. Heng Chivoan

Thai passport offices get OK

The Ministry of Labour yesterday announced the green light had been given on new offices in Thailand designed to hasten the issuing of passport and travel documents for Cambodian migrants working there illegally.

The news comes as the National Police announced the number of Cambodian migrant workers last year had dropped by about 30 percent – to some 320,000 – during an anti-trafficking meeting on Tuesday between the Kingdom, Laos and Vietnam. However, unofficial estimates of Cambodian migrants abroad run as high as 1 million, with the majority in Thailand.

Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour posted an eight-point plan on the new documentation offices on his Facebook page after a meeting between Thai authorities and a committee for legalising Cambodian workers – a body vice-chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son Hun Manet.

“From March 1, 2017, the Thai side agrees with Cambodia to directly provide passports or travel documents to Cambodian workers who have pink cards and have been working in factories and enterprises
that employ a Cambodian workforce of 80 or more,” the plan read.

Thailand has also agreed to send immigration officers to factories to facilitate the documents, and to “reduce the required documents” Thai employers requested. Sour could not be reached for clarification yesterday.

Dy The Hoya, of workers’ rights NGO Central, welcomed the move to fast-track legal documents for workers over the border, but detected a political motive, and feared it may not benefit workers in practice. “If it is effective, it would be helpful for decreasing trafficking, but in case it is not, it is just for marketing; we are close to the election,” he said.

“The thing is, migrant workers do not know about this news,” he said, saying he has spoken with many Cambodian labourers in Thailand since the new offices were announced. He said the proposed 955 baht (about $27) price for passports was very reasonable, but feared hidden costs may be involved.

He stressed there was still a very high risk of migrant workers being lured onto fishing boats, and a lack of proper documents could fuel that danger. A study released earlier this week warned that even when migrants are armed with legal documents, they can still be vulnerable to abuse at the hands unscrupulous employers.

National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun on Tuesday said Cambodia was vulnerable to new technologies that could be used by brokers and traffickers to trick workers into slavery.

“[We must] provide each other the blacklist and masterminds and networks of human trafficking criminals in order to arrest, and secondly continue to strengthen checks at borders to prevent the illegal flow in and out of human trafficking,” he said.

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