CHIANG MAI: Migrant workers in Chiang Mai were left in confusion as the (NV) scheme ended yesterday.
Ruchuchai Potha, director of the Labour Department, said that the majority of the almost 70,000 migrant workers in the province have gone through the NV process.
Only 2,669, or 4% of them, have yet to be processed because they do not have valid passports.
Mr Ruchuchai admitted that the deadline for NV would have a greater impact on illegal migrants who want to go "above ground" than on those who have already completed the legalisation process.
He declined to say how many illegal migrants are in the province.
Korn, 26, a Myanmar migrant from Sansai subdistrict, said he would like to ask the government to extend the NV deadline at least for another month.
"The passport costs 4,900 baht," Korn said. Migrant workers usually refer to the NV process as an issuing of passports.
"I've paid 1,600 baht for the application but to complete the process I have to pay another 3,300 baht. I've asked my employer for an advance but he refused, saying that I have to pay my previous debt first," said Mr Korn, who arrived in Thailand in 2004.
Korn would not have felt so discouraged if his toddler had not been hospitalised earlier this year for a lung infection.
"With my wife's wage, which will come at the end of the month as she has just resumed work after taking care of the baby, I should be able to pay the remaining passport fees to the broker," Korn said.
Unless the government comes up with other options apart from deportation for those who fail to complete the NV process by the deadline, Korn's family will have to live in fear of being laid off as his employer would not want to risk hiring "illegal" migrant workers.
According to Chiang Mai's Department of Employment, migrant workers have until the end of the month to upgrade their three-year passports, dubbed the red passport, to a six-year version, dubbed the purple passport.
The country's eight NV centres will be closed down on Dec 28.
Problems were evident on the deadline day yesterday as hundreds of migrants and employers wait outside the provincial employment office where 30 broker units were located.
A 32-year-old Myanmar migrant from Fang district said he had paid for a passport back in August but the broker has provided no update on whether he would receive the document by the deadline.
"The problem is that my work permit recently expired but I don't have the proper documents to have it extended," he said.
Another migrant from Lamphun said her employer told her to come here and wait.
"We do not know anything about the deadline and the closure of the NV centres and we are still not sure whether there will be any further problems," said the 25-year-old ethnic Shan worker.
Kritaya Archavanitkul, from Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research, said the National Security Council which is drafting a master plan on migrants would still want to deal only with skilled workers.
The reality, however, is that Thailand has insufficient unskilled labour and unskilled migrants are the answer to this shortfall.
"We would like to see a comprehensive policy and measures addressing both skilled and unskilled migrants fairly, their dependents as well," said Ms Kritaya.
Governments in Asean, Thailand included, need to think thoroughly about the issue of migrants as the region is going to become a single community in 2015, she said.
About the author
- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat