Over 500 illegal migrants left in lurch

Over 500 illegal migrants left in lurch

Strict labour decree spooks employers

Myanmar workers return home after employers in Tak dare not hire them as the executive decree on foreign workers imposes tougher punishments for employing unregistered migrant workers. (Photo by Assawin Pinitwong)
Myanmar workers return home after employers in Tak dare not hire them as the executive decree on foreign workers imposes tougher punishments for employing unregistered migrant workers. (Photo by Assawin Pinitwong)

More than 500 illegal migrant workers from Cambodia and Myanmar were found to have been abandoned by their employers or had left their jobs following the enactment of a decree imposing harsh punishment on the recruitment of undocumented alien labourers.

A total of 143 undocumented Cambodian workers found in several provinces, including Ayutthaya, Saraburi and Chachoengsao, were yesterday brought to the immigration office in Sa Kaeo, which borders Cambodia, according to authorities.

They were registered by police before being deported via the Poipet immigration checkpoint in Cambodia. The workers were left stranded when their employers refused to take them back.

In Mae Sot district, bordering Myanmar, more than 400 illegal Myanmar workers were reported to have crossed back into their country yesterday after Thai businesses decided not to hire them following the enactment of the decree.

Job brokers were also said to have stopped seeking illegal migrant workers for fear of being arrested or heavily punished.

Pol Lt Col Benjapol Rodsawat, superintendent of Sa Kaeo immigration police, said the harsher punishment under the executive decree on the recruitment of foreigners, which came into force on June 23, has triggered fear among illegal Cambodian workers who work in several provinces.

According to the decree, the aim is to raise recruitment and management standards and to avoid accusations by the international community of abuse and even human trafficking.

The law contains harsher punishments for both civil and criminal wrongdoing associated with illegal hiring of migrant workers, with fines ranging from 400,000-800,000 baht.

Pol Lt Col Benjapol said many migrant workers turned themselves in to provincial immigration officers to be allowed to go back to their country.

In coming forward to report to authorities, officers treated the workers with leniency by not bringing charges against them, he said.

However, those found and arrested by officials will be subject to punishment under the decree, he said.

More undocumented workers are expected to turn themselves in to authorities in the coming days, he said.

In addition to pushing illegal migrant workers out of the country, immigration officers will step up public relations campaigns on the new decree, he said.

Any Cambodian workers who want to return to Thailand need to go through legal recruitment processes, he noted.

Jo, a 25-year-old Myanmar worker, who crossed the border to Myawaddy, opposite Mae Sot, said he paid a broker 3,000 baht to find work for him in Thailand.

When he turned up at the factory where he was due to start work, he was turned away by business owner who feared being arrested.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the powerful Section 44 of the previous interim charter, which has been carried over in the current constitution, could be invoked to allow for a grace period following the decree's enforcement in case there is a mass labour shortage.

"If there are no other options, Section 44 will have to be used," said Gen Prayut.

He said he has also instructed the Labour Ministry to seek suitable measures to address the concerns.

Phuket Provincial Labor Office Chief Suttipong Saisakares yesterday called on employers and businesses in the province to recruit foreign workers via legitimate means.

More than 50,000 workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos are working in the fishery, construction and retail industries in the island province, he added.


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