Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thailand registers 1.6 million illegal migrant workers

Four months after ushering tens of thousands of terrified migrant workers across the Cambodian border, Thai authorities announced Friday that they have registered 1.6 million more. Sumet Mahosot, director-general of the department of employment, told the Bangkok Post on Friday that 55 service centers across the country had registered a total of 1.42 million migrants from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, along with 87,000 family members.

He estimated that the final figure would reach 1.6 million, although Friday was the last day for the registration process.

In June, tens of thousands of Cambodians fled back to their country across the border after the Thai junta said in a surprise announcement that it would arrest and deport all irregular foreign workers.

Taken aback by the massive exodus, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said that Thailand “still needed unskilled workers” and that the objective of the authorities was to regularize all migrant workers in order to better protect their rights.

After a few weeks, Cambodian migrant workers began to stream back into Thailand to get registered at the newly opened service centers – a simple process involving the taking of a photograph and the filling in of a form.

With the registration now closed, neighboring countries will have to cooperate with the Thai government for a national identification process of the workers, which will take place November 3 - March 31.

Until last June, between 2-3 million migrants - mostly from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos - were working in Thailand, providing the bulk of manpower in economic sectors - in particular, the fishing, seafood and construction industries - where Thais are no longer economically willing to work due to low salaries and harsh conditions.

They were paid between 33-50 percent of the average Thai salary for the sector, but according to aid organizations half of them worked illegally.

Most arrived in Thailand when the demand for foreign labor was high due to a booming economy.

The GDP rate predicted by the Thai central bank for 2014 is 1.5 percent, however - a sharp decline on previous years. The country was thrown into turmoil by a political crisis between November 2013 and the coup d’├ętat of May 22, 2014.

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