The Thai government has given a nine-month extension to Cambodian migrant workers in the country who have not yet renewed their temporary work permits, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement Monday.
The statement said that as part of a diplomatic mission to Thailand last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong met Saturday with his Thai counterpart, who agreed to the extension.
Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said an estimated 50,000 Cambodians who faced possible deportation after the previous deadline passed on June 30 now have until March 31, 2016, to get an extension.
“Only 50,000 people have not yet extended the provisional [permit] for staying in Thailand,” he said.
Cheam Lamatin, counselor in charge of migrant labor at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, said there were 730,000 Cambodian migrants registered in Thailand.
“[Of those], 500,000 have their pink cards extended already,” he said, referring to the temporary work permits.
Mr. Lamatin said the Thai government estimated that 100,000 of the remaining 230,000 had already left the country and that other workers might have registered multiple times, adding that it was difficult to be certain of such estimates.
“Nobody knows about this. The migrant workers come through the [informal] corridors and not through the international checkpoints,” he said.
Mr. Lamatin said all pink-card holders still needed to get official work permits by March 31, and did not know what would happen to migrants who did not.
“We requested to the Thai Labor Ministry to extend the deadline,” he said. “But the Thai authorities said, ‘Let the deadline be the deadline because if we keep extending it, no one will respect the law.’”
Andy Hall, a migrant rights activist in Thailand, said in an email Sunday that according to figures from the Thai Labor Ministry, only about 171,000 Cambodian migrants had finished Thailand’s national verification process, which is required to receive a work permit.
(Additional reporting by Ouch Sony)