Gov’t Says 660,000 Workers Now in Thailand

In a drastic upward revision of previous government estimates, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that some 660,000 Cambodians, or almost 5 percent of the country’s entire population, is currently working in Thailand.

Before the Thai junta began an initiative in June to clear the country’s workforce of illegal migrant workers, a move that saw about 250,000 Cambodian workers flee back to their home country, the government estimated that 90,000 Cambodians were legally working in Thailand.

However, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said on Thursday that 270,000 Cambodians previously working illegally in Thailand have since been legalized, bringing to about 660,000 the total number of workers who have crossed the border to find work.

“There are about 270,000 of our workers who were illegally working in Thailand who have registered and received pink cards and about 390,000 workers were already legal,” he said.

In late June, Thailand opened offices around the country where illegal workers could register their identity in exchange for a pink card that allows them to continue working for 60 days. Mr. Kuong said that this two-month window would allow workers to obtain proper documentation.

“Pink cards open the way for those workers to permanently work legally and gives them a chance to make passports and visas,” he said.

Mr. Kuong briefed reporters following a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and outgoing Thai Ambassador Pakdi Touchayoot.

According to the spokesman, Mr. Pakdi thanked Mr. Namhong for not allowing the opponents of the Thai junta to establish a government-in-exile in Cambodia, while both diplomats said that a cross-border railway project near Poipet City should remain a priority.

Mr. Namhong also called for an end to the arrest of laborers at the Poipet border checkpoint, where dozens of Cambodian cart-pushers have been arrested and released in recent days for moving goods across the border that violate trademarks held by Thai businesses.

“Deputy Prime Minister [Mr. Namhong] asks both countries to prevent the arrest and penalties against brokers both in Thailand and Cambodia,” Mr. Kuong said.

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