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Over 650,000, including thousands of Cambodian workers, seek amnesty as Thai government sounds warning

Cambodian migrant workers who did not want to stay and become legal workers in Thailand. KT/Chor Sokunthea

More than 650,000 migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have applied to stay stay in the kingdom legally for two more years under the government’s labour amnesty programme, which began on Jan 15.

The amnesty programme was designed to allow the government to monitor the welfare of migrant workers in Thailand — in light of Covid-19 outbreaks which were linked to foreign labourers — and help stave off labour shortages due to border closures.

Under the scheme, illegal migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar who come forward to register will be allowed to legally stay and work in the country until Feb 13, 2023, without facing any penalties.

The figure was announced by Labour Minister, Suchart Chomklin, on Saturday, as the registration period officially ended. He also delivered a stern warning, saying the government will take legal action against illegal migrant workers who refused to register with authorities, as well as their employers. “[The government] would send them back to their home country and take legal action against enterprises which hired them,” he said.

In total, 654,864 migrant workers have registered with authorities. These workers will have to take a Covid-19 test and submit their identification details, along with other required documents to the Labour Ministry by April 16, said Mr Suchart. Out of the total, 596,502 workers are employed, while 58,362 are not. Most of the workers came from Myanmar, followed by Cambodia and Laos, the minister said.

Most workers were based in Bangkok, Chon Buri, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon, with the majority employed in construction, agriculture, food & beverage, services and the agricultural sector, he added. “This shows that there are about 600,000 illegal migrant workers in Thailand, not over a million as many people had claimed before,” he said.

When asked to comment on the 2,300 baht fee for the migrant workers’ Covid-19 test, which critics said might be too expensive, Mr Suchart said the price was set by the Department of Medical Science.

In addition to the Covid-19 test, each migrant worker must undergo health screening to ensure they are free from six diseases of high concern by Oct 18. Once completed, their employer could then apply for a work permit on their behalf by Dec 30. In total, an employer would have to pay around 8,000 baht per worker to complete the process, a sum which the minister said was “reasonable”. “No employer complained about it,” he said.  Bangkok Post

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