The Cambodian embassy in Thailand has called on migrant labourers to extend their residency and work cards by the end of the month or face legal action and possible deportation.
According to a statement issued on Monday, the Thai government will stop providing temporary residency, working cards and documents between employers and employees by March 31.
“After the deadline on March 31, 2018, Thai authorities will take strong legal action against all foreign workers who do not have permission to stay and work in Thailand,” the embassy said.
The embassy said Cambodian workers who have not yet extended their residency and working cards must do so as quickly as possible at one-stop service centres where they are working and living in Thailand.
Heng Sour, spokesman for the Labour Ministry, said yesterday that the statement was issued to remind workers who have not yet applied for non-Thai nationality cards.
Mr Sour said the embassy’s statement was not linked to a campaign to provide documents to thousands of Cambodian workers currently living in Thailand illegally.
“It was just a reminder to those Cambodian workers who do not yet have pink cards, or non-Thai nationality cards,” he said. “They have to do it quickly at the one-stop service centres.”
The two countries began collaborating to issue documents to labourers working in the country illegally after Thai authorities launched a crackdown on them last year, leading to an exodus of thousands of workers.
Labour Minister Ith Samheng said last month that about 340,000 Cambodian migrant labourers living in Thailand were still awaiting documents to work in the country legally and had been granted another grace period until June this year.
“Officials from both countries agreed to continue the process of providing legal documents for Cambodian workers in Thailand until June,” said Mr Samheng. “Right now there are about 340,000 workers that do not have legal documents yet.”
Mr Sour said the statement issued Monday applies to workers who have not yet begun the process of obtaining legal paperwork.
Mr Sour said that after obtaining pink cards, the workers could apply for identification from the inter-ministerial working group of the Committee for Legalising Cambodian Workers Residing and Working in Thailand.
“Extension of non-Thai nationality pink cards is the duty of Thai authorities,” said Mr Sour. “Cambodian workers who cannot extend the cards by the deadline set by the Thai government will be deemed as staying illegally in Thailand and Thai authorities will take action by their laws and they will not be allowed to stay and work in Thailand.”
“Our committee provides the legitimate documents to the workers who have pink cards,” he added. “That’s why we are reminding them to do it.”
Dy Thehoya, a programme officer with labour rights group Central, said yesterday that he was very concerned about migrant workers in Thailand if tough action was taken.
“We are very worried about this. If the Thai government takes legal action against our workers who fail to produce enough documents as required, they would face punishment such as imprisonment and fines,” he said.
Mr Thehoya said that if Cambodian workers face punishment in accordance with Thailand’s Labour Law, they would be fined from $160 to $1,600 and face five years in prison.
Mr Thehoya said the Cambodian government should request that the Thai government suspend legal action and find out how many Cambodian workers have not yet taken the first step of obtaining pink cards.
According to an annual report from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, at least 1,000 Cambodian workers were deported each week from Thailand via the Poipet International Border Checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province last year.