40,000 Passports Printed for Workers in Thailand

The government has to date printed passports for two-thirds of the roughly 60,000 Cambodians currently working in Thailand who have asked for the documents in order to stay there legally, an Interior Ministry official said Tuesday.

Mao Chandara, who heads the ministry’s general department of identification, said that up until Tuesday about 60,000 migrant workers in Thailand had requested passports.

“We have printed about 40,000 passports,” he said. “We will send them as soon as the Thai authorities issue work permits and visas for them.”

In June last year, a month after the Thai Army overthrew the country’s democratically elected government, some 225,000 Cambodians fled Thailand fearing that the new military junta was intent on arresting illegal migrant workers.

In order to help them return legally, the Cambodian government slashed the price of passports from $124 to $4. By late July, however, Mr. Chandara said his department had issued only 500 passports since the exodus.

Even so, the Thai Labor Ministry reported that the number of Cambodian migrant workers in the country was back up to about 680,000 as of November 6.

In December, the Mekong Migration Network, which monitors migration in the region, released a fact-finding report about Cambodians working in Thailand. It said that most of the Cambodians in the country were on temporary work permits.

Those permits are set to expire on March 31, and Thailand has yet to explain what will happen to the workers who have them when that day arrives.

Chhea Manith, who heads Banteay Meanchey province’s transit office, which assists migrant workers, said Tuesday that about 100 workers were being sent back from Thailand to the province each day.

“We do not know why they didn’t go fill out an application to work legally in Thailand,” Ms. Manith said. “Maybe they don’t have enough money.”

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