Thailand and Cambodia in Talks Over Demand for Migrant Work

Thailand has appealed to Cam­bodia to send more migrant workers to the country due to a high demand for labor following last year’s devastating floods, while Cambodia has in turn asked that Thailand render the mi­gration process safer, speedier and cheap­er, Choub Narth, deputy director of the Ministry of Labor’s department of manpower and employment, said yesterday.

Mr. Narth was speaking by telephone from Siem Reap, where he was attending a meeting with the visiting director-general of Thai­land’s em­ployment department, Pra­wit Khiang­phon, to discuss lowering visa fees and registration and documentation for day migrant workers from Cambodia.

Mr. Narth called the talks “a good way to address challenges and find a solution between both sides,” adding that while Thailand had not yet confirmed how many Cam­bodian workers they needed, the demand was high due to the need to rebuild in the wake of the flooding.

The two sides had also discussed how to issue documents for daily and seasonal workers and their proposals were now under consideration by the var­ious relevant ministries, Mr. Narth continued.

“Related to the visa fee, now it’s $80 for an employment visa, but we want to decrease the fee to $20. We got the response from Thailand that they’ve accepted the proposal,” he said.

High visa costs, bureaucracy, and in­formal systems of migration mean that even migrants who first went to Thai­land via legal channels often end up staying in the country illegally, ac­cor­ding to Andy Hall, foreign expert at the Institute of Population and So­cial Research at Bangkok’s Mahidol University.

“If implemented transparently, cost effectively and in migrant-friendly ways” the regular migration the two governments discussed yesterday reduces the risk of human trafficking, Mr. Hall said.

“Until today, there has been no prioritization from all sides toward organizing channels for migration to re­place the dangerous, debt ridden and exploitative smuggling and traf­fick­­ing that continue to lead mi­grants from origin countries into abuse,” Mr. Hall added, citing the example of traf­ficked Cambodian fishermen who work under appall­ing conditions on Thai fishing trawlers.

Last year, 240,000 Cambodian migrants registered with the Thai authorities, but the number of illegal Cambodian migrants in the country remains unknown.


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