Without Permits, Cambodian Workers at Risk of Deportation

Large roundups and deportations of illegal migrant workers in Thailand are expected both preceding and following July’s deadline for registering for work permits, a migration expert said.

“They’re going to use some small amount of workers to crack down on in order to scare employers into acting” to get their employees registered, said Andy Hall, a consultant for the Human Rights and Development Foundation in Bangkok.

Following the July 15 deadline, “they’ve said there’s going to be a huge, bigger-than-ever crackdown,” he said.

Representatives of the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministries were unavailable yesterday.

According to a statement from Thailand’s Department of Em­ployment, the Thai government last week set a one-month registration period—mid-June to mid-July—in which workers can register. Once the window has closed, unregistered workers will be subject to fines, deportation and im­prisonment. At a cost of about $125, registration may be burdensome, Thai media said last week.

Human rights workers are pushing for the registration. “Essentially, regularizing workers is a good thing,” explained Mr Hall. “But we want it to be as cheap as possible and as easy as possible.”

The Nation on Thursday quoted the Thai director general of the Department of Employment, Su­thassanee Suebwongphaet, as saying registration would offer protections. “When all workers are en­tered into the system, they can be protected and paid more fairly, while being monitored and controlled more effectively. This will lead to better proficiency in terms of social and economic concerns.”

Last year, the Thai government attempted to enact a similar measure with mixed results.

When many workers failed to register the government deported some, but that did little to cut down on illegal workers, noted Mr Hall. According to HRDF, there are nearly 30,000 registered Cam­bo­di­an workers but an unknown number of undocumented ones.

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