More than 200,000 Cambodian workers have been provided legal status by the Thai government to continue working in the country.
This came after Thailand gave migrant workers from neighbouring countries including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar one month starting January 15 to apply for two-year work and legal residence permits.
Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on February 14 that of the 654,864 foreign workers who registered with the Thai Ministry of Labour between January 15 and February 13, a total of 203,670 were Cambodians.
“Foreign workers from the three countries amounted to 596,502 employed workers – of which 180,476 are Cambodian – and 58,362 unemployed workers with 23,203 being Cambodian,” Sour said.
Sour said that when the Cambodian workers’ permits expire the Thai government may begin to implement strict measure against illegal workers and this would be within its right to do so.
“The fee for this work and residence permit card is between $300 and $400. Together with [Laos and Myanmar], we ask the Thai government to consider reducing the fee. It should not be paid entirely by the workers but should be the obligation of some employers,” he said.
Bo Ran, a worker who obtained his legal work and residency permit in January, told The Post on February 14 that for legal workers, there were less challenges if they had an employer who cares about their welfare.
She said those living and working illegally in Thailand faced many challenges but getting the permit from the Thai government was also sometimes difficult, especially for certain jobs.
“If Thailand continues to tighten their measures, it could affect the Cambodian workers who come here illegally. First, the cost of passports is too high. If possible, we request that the Cambodian and Thai governments facilitate the process for workers to come to work in Thailand legally and to charge a lower price for the permits,” she said.
Dy Thehoya, Centre for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)’s Migrant Workers Protection Programme Officer, said small numbers of Cambodian migrant workers get legal permission from the Thai government but most of Cambodian migrant workers would not be able to take advantage of this opportunity because of the cost and other requirements.
He is concerned that when the Thai government ends this policy and starts law enforcement against migrant workers, many Cambodians could face difficult challenges and harsher treatment.
“One month to get the ID card is not enough time for some workers because some people have the challenge of not having a job when they arrive, and they do not have enough money to pay $300 or $400 for registration. Thus, this is an injustice for workers.”
Thehoya called on both governments to negotiate to provide more benefits and conveniences to Cambodian migrant workers so that they can work legally in Thailand during this difficult period.