The Cambodian government has agreed to a request from the Thai Labor Ministry to temporarily block migrant workers from traveling to Thailand for the next four months as it conducts a census into migrants in the country, according to a statement released on Thursday.
Cambodia’s Labor Ministry said it had agreed to stop issuing passports, work permits and travel documents to anyone who plans to find work across the border from April 1 until July 29, according to the statement dated Wednesday.
Contacted on Thursday, Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said Cambodian migrant workers already in Thailand would also have to request a permission letter from the Thai Labor Ministry in order to leave the country during the census, and would only be able to do so under exceptional circumstances.
Mr. Sour added that workers would not be able to cross the border with a “pink card,” which allows them to work in Thailand as they wait for passports and visas.
“They will find it difficult to leave Thailand because they can’t use a pink card so they have to go to labor officials in Thailand to be issued a permission letter,” Mr. Sour said.
Moeun Tola, who heads the labor rights group Central, said the suspension would not stem the flow of Cambodians to Thailand. Desperate for decent paying jobs, many migrants have already chosen to cross the border illegally in order to avoid red tape and administrative costs.
“I think Thai business mostly depends on migrant workers. Even though the Thai government issued that policy, but I’m sure that Thai businesses will not be happy with that policy because they depend on a lot of the migrants workers—not only Cambodia, but Myanmar, Laos. It is impossible to stop migrant workers,” Mr. Tola said.
“To go to Thailand by the legal procedure, it [takes] too long, and also people have to spend a lot of money in terms of recruitment fees or document and so on,” he added. “People choose to just migrate illegally…. People will keep going, keep going.”