Myanmar has expressed an interest in sending 42,000 workers to fill vacancies in the commercial fishing sector, according to Labour Minister Pol Gen Adul Sangsingkeo.
Speaking after his return from a visit in Myanmar where he met Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population Thein Swe, Pol Gen Adul said negotiations are under way over wages and welfare benefits before a more formal process begins.
If the deal is signed, these workers, largely from coastal areas including Myeik and Kawthong, will be brought in under a system of MoUs, while a One Stop Service Centre for labourers will be set up in Ranong province, he said.
Pol Gen Adul said Myanmar authorities have asked Thailand to forward it a list of 36,000 Myanmar workers currently employed in the fishing sector, along with the details of their employers, by Aug 31.
The information will be submitted to Myanmar's parliament for consideration, which is part of their process for sending workers to other countries under the MoU system, he said.
According to the labour minister, about 9,000 of this batch of workers will be deployed in the fishing sector in Thailand's three southernmost provinces.
"I have confidence in our talks about cooperating on labour issues," he said.
Myanmar's initial agreement to send workers to solve the shortage in the fishing industry is expected to ease pressure on the government.
The regime is now being urged by fishing operators to invoke Section 83 of the fisheries law so the Department of Fisheries can register additional foreign workers.
The Labour Ministry has shown reluctance to adopt the measure because it prefers the MoU system to ensure foreign workers first undergo a state-sponsored screening process.
However, Pol Gen Adul said importing workers under a system of MoUs was one of three approaches raised by agencies concerned with tackling the labour shortage in the commercial fishing industry.
The industry needs about 110,000 workers and is short by 50,000.
He said another approach would be to extend the work permits of 11,000 migrant workers already working in the industry for another two years.
These migrant workers hold permits that are due to expire between Aug 20 and Sept 30.
The ministry will open OSS centres in 22 coastal provinces during that period to process applications to renew visas and handle work permit requests.
On the industry's call to recruit more migrant workers under Section 83 of the fisheries law, Pol Gen Adul said the Interior Ministry would have to get involved.
He said that ministry would be asked to use its authority under Section 17 of the immigration law to allow migrant workers holding temporary passports or Certificate of Identity (CI) papers to register and then apply for work in the fishing industry.
However, he said the number of migrant workers in this group was not known.
He added that these three measures should help relieve the labour shortage and could bear fruit within as little as three months.