Army moves to limit damage from worker exodus (updated)

The continued exodus of Cambodian migrant workers is worrisome, but the big fear is that the much larger labour force from Myanmar might panic. Yesterday, the army took steps to prevent that and today the Thai permanent foreign secretary asked Cambodian workers not to go.

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Gen Sirichai Disthakul talks to a Catholic nun during his visit to employers and migrant workers from Myanmar in Samut Sakhon yesterday. THITI WANNAMONTHA

Evening update

Permanent foreign secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow, right, met with Cambodian ambassador, Eat Sophea today for 30-minutes today and told her that her citizens had nothing to fear from Thai authorities. CHANAT KATANYU

Please come back, Cambodian workers told

Permanent foreign secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow called in the Cambodian ambassador, Eat Sophea, on Tuesday and asked that Cambodian authorities tell their people to return to their jobs in Thailand.

The 30-minute meeting at the ministry followed the rushed departure of more  than 100,000 Cambodian illegal workers from Thailand, who returned home over the past week for fear the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) would arrest them.

After the meeting, Mr Sihasak told a press conference that the Cambodian workers' fears were based on groundless rumour.

Thailand planned only to legalise all alien workers so they would not continue to be victimised by human traffickers and would be entitled to the same legal protection and welfare that Thai workers receive.

Mrs Sophea said Thailand and Cambodia both wanted alien workers to have legal status in Thailand.  The Cambodian government and Cambodian foreign affairs officials would explain the real situation to job seekers.

The ambassador also said that legal Cambodian workers in Thailand had no need for concern. Illegal workers should have their status legalised.

Army fights labour fears on new front

Sirichai heads off Myanmar worker panic

Post Reporters

The junta yesterday moved to calm down panicked alien labourers, including the bulk of Thailand's foreign workforce from Myanmar, reiterating that there were no harsh crackdowns being planned.

Gen Sirichai Disthakul, chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order's (NCPO) sub-committee on transnational labour, yesterday led a team to visit employers and migrant workers in Samut Sakhon, a province with one of the largest populations of migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar.

The visit was apparently aimed at curbing problems facing business operators who were losing workers and whose businesses could be damaged by sudden labour shortages, both legal and illegal.

Gen Sirichai asked for cooperation from employers in Samut Sakhon to urgently report to the NCPO the number and names of the Myanmar nationals they were hiring, either legally or illegally.

Gen Sirichai said the NCPO plans to pilot its migrant labour management policy in Samut Sakhon and Ranong provinces. They were conducting a survey for the plan which includes residential zoning arrangements and public health services.

“We insist that there’s no policy to crack down on foreign workers,” Gen Sirichai said.

NCPO chief Prayuth Chan-ocha also insisted yesterday the NCPO was "regulating" the employers hiring migrant workers and it was crucial to abide by the law by formally registering the migrant labourers who currently live and work in Thailand.

NCPO deputy spokesman Winthai Suvaree also insisted the NCPO did not have any policy to crack down on migrant workers but would have to re-regulate the migrant labour that had been a problem plaguing Thailand for more than a decade.

Both employers and migrant workers should benefit from the effort to improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers, he said.

The most urgent issues facing migrant labour include the abuse of child labour, human trafficking, and the corrupt actions of some state officials and labour brokers profiting from illegal businesses associated with migrant workers, Col Winthai said.

Employers of migrant labourers are simply required now to carry on with business as usual while taking the best care of their workers, he said.

The chief aim of the NCPO's move to re-regulate migrant labour is to correctly register migrant workers so they can live and work in Thailand and receive proper work benefits including health care, he said.

Gen Prayuth had previously vowed to finish registering all alien workers living in Thailand in one year.

There are currently 2,233,015 legal migrant workers in Thailand — 1,741,771 Myanmar nationals, 95,888 from Laos, and 395,356 from Cambodia, said Thanich Numnoi, deputy director-general of the Employment Department.

Of the total, about 1.8 million workers had entered Thailand illegally previously but later went through nationality verification and received permission to live and work temporarily here, Mr Thanich said.

Cambodian workers travelling from Bangkok to return hom get off at Aranyaprathet railway station in Sa Kaeo province following rumours the military will launch a crackdown on migrant workers. This morning, there were fewer workers getting on trains at Hua Lumphong in Bangkok, leading to hopes the exodus had peaked. THANARAK KHOONTON

Ms Kamolwan, a construction firm owner who asked that her last name be withheld, said her 100 Cambodian workers informed her that they had to go back to Cambodia but promised to return later.

Her small firm was suffering greatly from a labour shortage, she said.

Rumours that some Cambodians had been detained and physically assaulted emerged about a month ago, she said.

"Many of my Cambodian workers insisted their parents were very concerned about their safety and that was why they had to go home," Ms Kamolwan said.

She urged the government to open a new round of migrant worker registration to turn illegal migrant workers into legal ones, saying the current policy of requiring alien workers to seek visas and work permits requires a lot of time and money.

Related search: Thailand, junta, migrant workers, Cambodia, Myanmar

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