Nearly 20,000 Cambodian workers are lined up to replace the 20,000 to 30,000 in danger of being deported from Thailand after failing to meet Tuesday’s registration deadline for a work permit, Thai officials and rights workers said yesterday.
“We have 17,000 fresh workers [from Cambodia] to come in and replace those workers” who will be deported, said Supat Guukhun, deputy director-general of Thailand’s Employment Department.
“We’ve sent the order to Cambodia for them to come work,” he added, noting that little paperwork remains to be completed by the workers before they arrive. In addition to the 17,000 Cambodians requested, he said, Thailand has also asked for 10,000 workers from Laos and 11,000 from Burma.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he did not know offhand whether there was an agreement to replace deported workers but defended Thailand’s right to implement a registration process as it saw fit.
“They implement their immigration law—it is no problem. It is their internal law,” he said, adding that Cambodia has been working closely with Thailand to ensure the verification goes smoothly.
Andy Hall, director of the Bangkok-based Human Rights and Development Foundation’s Migrant Justice Program, called the plan “not thought out, not realistic.”
“It sounds bizarre…. There is a formal process for bringing people into Thailand, and it is so expensive and complex [for companies], no one ever does it,” he said.
Mr Hall noted this claim of “workers in the wings” has been employed for months by Thai officials as a mechanism to threaten workers into undertaking the unwieldy national verification process—a new policy aimed at improving the ability of both Thailand and the sending countries to keep track of migrants.
Regardless of the impending deportations, he and other rights workers noted the verification process would likely not make a dent in illegal crossings.
“There are a lot of illegal [migrants] crossing the border and being sent back,” said Soun Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for Adhoc. “It has become the culture here.”