Thai Plan To Register Migrant Workers Blasted

A report released this week in Bangkok by the International Org­anization for Migration criticizes the system being set up in Thai­land to register all migrant workers, including Cambodians.

The IOM report states that as of Dec 31, 2004, 104,000 Cambod­ians had registered with the Thai Min­istry of Interior as a first step to­ward gaining temporary work permits.

But many Cambodians may be avoiding registering because of the high costs and paperwork in­volved, the report notes.

“The total fee of 3,800 baht [about $93] required to obtain one-year work permits is considered high by both employers and mi­grants,” the report indicates, ad­ding that the amount is equal to one-month’s salary for most work­ers, who on average make just 60 percent of the Thai minimum wage.

“Even those who have design­ed the system and are implementing the registration must acknowledge that it still meets few of the goals of the [agreements] signed with Cam­­­­bod­ia, Laos…and Myanmar,” the report says.

The agreement between Cam­bodia and Thailand also falls short in other respects, the IOM report notes.

Even though a two-year work permit for migrant workers was sought, the system only allows a one-year permit.

In addition, workers do not have employment contracts and “apparently the government does little to monitor working conditions or wages,” the report reads.

However, the system does al­low registered workers access to the Thai healthcare system, where they can pay $0.73 per visit to a doctor, it says.

Pieter Van Der Meer, project development officer for IOM in Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that the report’s figures are outdated.

“The process is stuck on the Cambodian side because each mi­grant must be interviewed by Cambodians in order to prove their citizenship,” Van Der Meer said.

Chuop Naran, deputy director of the Employment and Man­power Department at the Labor Ministry, said that the registration process halted in April after 72 Cambod­ians received identity certificates.

Documents obtained from the Council of Ministers earlier this month revealed that registration was stalled over negotiations as to which private company would be given a contract to interview the Cambodians in Thailand.

Van Der Meer said that setting up legal migration procedures with other countries is crucial for Cam­bod­ia’s economic future.

“With 200,000 young people enter­ing the workforce every year, there are just not enough jobs [in Cambodia],” he said.

The Ministry of Labor is working on registration agreements with South Korea, now hosting 1,721 Cambodian workers, and Malaysia, which is hosting 4,300, Van Der Meer said.

Agencies in Cambodia have also been given licenses to send workers to Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, he added.


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