Illegal foreign models face crackdown
More than half don't have work permits
Labour authorities and the modelling association have vowed to jointly tackle the problem of foreign models working illegally in Thailand.
More than half of the approximately 500 foreigners who visit the country annually to work as models do not have work permits. Cooperation from Thai modelling agencies will also be sought along with stricter law enforcement.
ML Puntarik Samiti, permanent secretary for the Labour Ministry, said Tuesday the problem is a serious one as illegal foreign models come into the country on tourist visas and take modelling jobs earning big money.
She said the models avoided paying taxes as they did not have work permits, while some cases potentially involved human trafficking and child labour as some models were under 18 years old.
The industry in Thailand is growing and attracting models from various countries, largely from Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the US, said ML Puntarik.
Edward Kiti, president of the Thai Modelling Industry and Agencies Association (TMIAA) said his association had recently reached an agreement with labour authorities to encourage members to seek work permits for foreign models in addition to handling their tax filings.
Foreigners caught working without a proper work permit face a maximum prison sentence of five years and/or a fine of between 2,000 and 100,000 baht, said Arak Phrommanee, director-general of the Department of Employment.
An employer found to have hired illegal models, meanwhile, could be fined between 10,000 and 100,000 baht per model, said Mr Arak.
"Thailand doesn't reserve modeling jobs for only Thai nationals but it is important to ensure that all foreign models who want to come to work in this country comply with immigration and other related laws," he said.
Employment for foreign models under 18, aside from their work visas, must be approved by the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare within 15 days of their first day of employment, he noted.
More importantly, he said, under Thai law, permission from the parents of underage models is required before they can be hired legally, and the parents must accompany them to ensure their safety and welfare.
Pol Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit, chief adviser to the TMIAA, said the modeling industry is prone to three forms of trafficking as foreign models are still able to work illegally in Thailand.
The first type could come in the form of unfair work contracts that could occur even in cases of legal employment, he said.
Two other forms of human trafficking associated with illegal modeling jobs are forced prostitution and child labour abuse, he said.
Somchai Saengratanamanee, deputy director-general of the Revenue Department, said the employment of foreign models is subject to an initial 5% income tax deduction and it is the employer's responsibility to handle this payment.
Employers are also required to file income tax returns on behalf of foreign models that they hire at the end of each year to ensure they comply with Thai law, he said.
- Unlicensed foreign models