Sick workers return early

Some Thais working overseas are being forced to return home prematurely after falling ill due to poor working conditions, labour officials say.

Speaking at a meeting in Bangkok yesterday, officials in charge of overseas labour offices said many labourers returned home before their contracts ended.

Many of the workers had developed serious health problems, including cancer, while working overseas.

The premature return of some workers has created financial problems for the Labour Ministry's fund for overseas workers. The fund assists workers by paying for their flights home.

Officials said many workers are injured in accidents at work. Some developed back problems from repetitive heavy lifting in factories.

Some of the injured workers had to return to Thailand after only a few days abroad, before they were entitled to help with medical care from their employer.

Other ailments experienced by workers included tuberculosis, liver cancer and colon cancer. Some workers became addicted to alcohol or drugs. One overseas worker started selling drugs and was arrested with a stash worth 60 million baht before being sent back to Thailand.

Workers were also exposed to second-hand smoke from customers at their workplaces, which put them at risk.

Somkiat Chayasriwong, permanent secretary of the Labour Ministry, said most overseas jobs for Thai workers were labour-intensive ones. Job seekers should be informed of the working conditions ahead of taking a job.

Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap said Thai Airways International (THAI) should offer discounted air fares to Thai workers who travel to work in groups. THAI chairman Ampon Kittiampon has agreed to meet the request.

The minister also ordered labour authorities to control job placement fees that brokers charge from job seekers. The job placement fee for each Thai worker seeking a job in Taiwan, for instance, is limited to 40,000 baht.

The minister said overseas workers make an important contribution to the country because they send most of their wages home. Last year over 440,000 Thai workers took jobs abroad. About 200,000 of them worked illegally in Malaysia.

Overseas workers sent more than 80 billion baht back to Thailand last year.

About the author

Writer: Penchan Charoensuthipan
Position: Reporter