Unregistered Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand last week were offered a reprieve from the threat of deportation, with the Thai government announcing it will allow workers to return to work in the country if they go back to Cambodia and register through formal channels.
In a public statement issued last week, Jirisak Sukhonchaat, the director general of the Thai Employment Department, said there would be no new registration process offered to workers who failed to apply through the alien worker registration process that ended in March.
But the Thai government’s previous threats of mass deportations, which have hung over the heads of tens of thousands of Cambodians working in Thailand, were not mentioned in the statement.
“If employers have the intention to continue to employ alien workers whom they employ at this time, but these workers did not meet the deadline for expressing their intention to enter the nationality verification process, these employers should send their alien workers back to their home country at the same time as reporting to the Employment Department the name of these workers,” the statement said.
“The Employment Department will then send these lists of names to the home country government so that that government can then arrange for this worker to enter into Thailand legally.”
Andy Hall, the Bangkok-based director of the Human Rights and Development Foundation’s migrant justice program, said yesterday that the Thai government’s new plan for migrant workers was not an attractive option for Cambodians.
“We support the idea of migrants working through the right channels to gain working status in Thailand, but we don’t think the current system will allow that to happen without them being forced to pay extortionate amounts of money to migrant worker brokers,” Mr Hall said by telephone from Thailand.
“They will have to pay somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 baht [between $62 and $105] to get to the border and then register through the brokers to return to Thailand. It is not realistic.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday he was unaware of the Thai government’s latest announcement about migrant workers and referred questions to the Ministry of Labor, where officials could not be contacted.