About 19,000 Thai workers in Malaysia have returned home due to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Malaysian ringgit, while 30,000 others have stayed on, according to Mongkol Sinsomboon, the Thai Consul-General to Kota Bharu.
Figures show 38,487 Thai workers work legally in Malaysia with 30,000 others working illegally in the neighbouring country, said Mr Mongkol.
The two groups of Thai migrant workers have sent home about 400 million baht a month, he said.
But the new wave of Covid-19 early this year, which also hit Malaysia hard, prompted the Malaysian government to invoke a state of emergency and left many Thai workers without jobs, he said.
Before the pandemic struck last year, Malaysia's policy on migrant labour was appealing to Thai workers, he said.
The Malaysian government began requiring employers to take out social security coverage for migrant workers.
From Jan 1 last year, it raised the minimum wage to 1,200 ringgit (8,995 baht) per month, from 1,100 ringgit per month previously, in 57 cities, he said.
The new minimum wage applied to all types of work except for domestic helpers, he said.
In April 30, 2019 the work permit levy for migrant workers was lowered, he added.
The work permit levy imposed on each migrant worker in the service, construction, manufacturing and mining sectors, for instance, was lowered from 10,000 ringgit to 6,000 ringgit.
The levy imposed on workers in the plantation and agriculture sections was lowered from 3,500 ringgit to 2,000 ringgit.
The Malaysian government also allowed a higher ratio of migrant workers to local workers, he said.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the government to lock down the country.
It also came as the Malaysian government was struggling to cope with its public debt problem, resulting in a steep fall in the value of the ringgit, he said.
As a result, many Thai workers decided not to renew their work contracts while some had even requested to have work contracts terminated before they actually expired, he said.
According to Malaysia's labour figures, Malaysia was hiring 125,795 Myanmar nationals, 117,733 Indian nationals, 568,929 Bangladeshi nationals, 316,102 Nepali nationals, 704,175 Indonesian nationals and 38,487 Thai nationals before the pandemic.