Illegal Thai workers to keep food shop jobs

Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to allow undocumented Thai Muslims to keep their jobs in the Tom Yum Kung restaurant chain in Malaysia.

Krit: ‘Over 1,000 Thais work for popular chain’

Thai ambassador to Malaysia Krit Kraichitti said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra recently raised the issue with her Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.

He said the government wants Kuala Lumpur to look into the plight of young Thais employed at the restaurant chain.

When serving as deputy prime minister, Chalerm Yubamrung had visited Malaysia and talked to senior officials about finding a resolution to the violence in the far South.

The operators of more than 6,500 Thai restaurants in 13 Malaysian states have formed an association called the Tom Yum Kung Club to represent their concerns. Mr Chalerm met them during his trip to Malaysia.

Mr Chalerm said at least 150,000 Thai Muslims work in restaurants where tom yum kung is served without work permits. Kuala Lumpur promised to look into the issue and relax its employment regulations for the migrants.

There are more than 1,000 young Thai Muslims working in the popular Tom Yum Kung restaurant chain in Malaysia, Mr Krit said. Most of them have never obtained the proper work permits. Mr Krit said Kuala Lumpur would allow the Thai youths to keep their jobs at this particular chain.

A number of the migrants are suspected of taking part in the separatist insurgency in the far South.

Security agents have found that some of the Thai Muslims fled to Malaysia to avoid arrest following insurgent attacks against civilians, teachers, government officials, soldiers, police and state properties. However, some of the migrants simply crossed over the border in search of work and never took part in the violence.

Malaysia has acted as a facilitator in the peace talks between the government and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional movement.

The talks have entered a third round, as violence continues during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Mr Krit raised concerns with Mr Najib over the continuing violence.

The premier acknowledged that finding a solution would take a long time.

"Mr Najib confirmed his intention to help Thailand during the peace talks process," Mr Krit said.

"He respects Thailand's sovereignty and will not support secession."

Mr Krit also thanked the Malaysian government for its efforts to end the violence.

He said Thailand and Malaysia have a special relationship despite their different religious, historical and governmental backgrounds.

More cooperation should take place under the Joint Development Strategy framework, he said, noting that Malaysia has more development potential.

A cook shares his tips with Rosina Mudman (second from left) at her Lala Seafood restaurant selling Thai food in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo by Nanchanok Wongsamuth)

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About the author

Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol
Position: Reporter