Thailand extends work permit process for migrants from 4 neighboring countries

About 500,000 workers from other Southeast Asian countries failed to meet a mid-May deadline, government says.
By Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwej for BenarNews
2023.07.06
Bangkok
Thailand extends work permit process for migrants from 4 neighboring countries Migrant workers sort fish and seafood from a fishing ship at a port in Samut Sakhon province, Thailand, Jan. 22, 2018.
Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Thailand will allow one-half million foreign migrants to stay in the country until the end of July to process work permits after they missed a mid-May deadline, a government spokeswoman said Thursday.

The workers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are among 2.74 million foreigners employed in Thailand as of May, according to the Ministry of Labor.

Of this number, most of them are from Myanmar. Migrants from Vietnam are excluded from an ongoing program that began in December 2020 to temporarily legalize undocumented workers but they can apply for extended permits, spokeswoman Trisulee Traisoranakul said.

“After the deadline, there were approximately half a million foreign workers who could not finish the process in time,” Trisulee said, adding that the administration of Prayuth Chan-o-cha approved the extension on Wednesday.

“So there must be a compromise for those illegal workers which allows the employers to handle them properly and to avoid the impact on the post-COVID economic recovery. … They can stay until July 31 when the process is done,” she said.

Those workers fall into three categories, according to Thai officials.

The first is people from the four neighboring Southeast Asian countries whose passports or visas expired, and those who lost their jobs but could not find a new employer.

The second is for nationals from those countries who overstayed their visas. And the third is for migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar who were hired illegally. Those from Vietnam are not included.

Trisulee said employers must submit names of workers to authorities within 15 days while allowing the workers to have a waiver to remain in Thailand until July 31.

“The workers’ children younger than 18 have the right to stay in Thailand with their parents,” Trisulee said.

‘Short-term measure

A labor rights activist said the government’s complex, costly and time-consuming process needed to change.

“This extension is a short-term measure before the new government takes it over,” Adisorn Kerdmongkol told BenarNews, referring to the yet to be decided final outcome to determine which coalition will govern the country after the May 14 general election.

“I suggest a sustainable troubleshooting measure by reforming the entire process to be a one-stop service fashion, getting rid of the broker as well as revamping the entire foreign labor management.”

Adisorn, a coordinator with the Migrant Working Group, an NGO, said the government allows only a few days for registration while the paperwork can be approved only by the central labor ministry while very few hospitals are available to complete required medical checkups.

In addition, the normal fee of 8,000 to 10,000 baht (U.S. $227 to $284) is increased to 18,000 to 20,000 baht ($512 to $569) when brokers are involved, he said.

“Especially for Myanmar which creates a costly labor broker system. The government knows it well, but simply has nothing to fix it,” he said.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news organization.

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