Migrants Skipping Gov’t Plan for Thai Alternative

The number of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand has risen to 190,000 thanks to the new one-stop service centers set up across the border, Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor said Wednesday.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Suor said about 190,000 migrant workers—some with a full complement of legal documents, others with partial paperwork and others with none—were in Thailand taking advantage of the centers.

“In general, they went to show up at the one-stop-service offices set up in Thai territory,” he said.

The Thai junta set up the centers along its border with Cambodia after some 250,000 mostly illegal Cambodian migrant workers fled the country for fear of arrests and violence at the hands of the new Thai military government.

Illegal migrant workers, as long as they have identification cards, can use the centers to get 60-day passes that let them stay in Thailand while they prepare the documentation they need to stay longer.

“They have 60 days to complete other documents to make them legal,” Mr. Suor said. “If they want to work in Thailand, they first must be patient and understand some legal procedures.”

The Thai option has attracted far more migrant workers than the system set up by the Cambodian government to send workers back to Thailand legally.

To help workers return to Thailand, the government in June reduced the price of passports for migrant laborers from $124 to $4.

But to qualify, workers must provide proof of employment from a Thai employer or a recruitment agency and then obtain certification from the Labor Ministry before applying for the subsidized passport.

As of last week, just 500 applications had reached the passport department.

Sok Phal, director of the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration, estimated about 100,000 migrant workers have returned to Thailand in the past two months. However, he could not specify whether the workers were returning with or without proper paperwork.

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