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Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand face doom and gloom

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Migrant workers heading home for Khmer New Year in the past. Khmer Times

The Covid 19 crisis has dealt a devastating blow to migrant workers who don’t qualify for the government’s financial aid package and have been deprived of the social security benefits they are normally entitled to.

Channy Ven, a 31-year-old Cambodian migrant worker, said she and her husband lost their jobs at a seafood processing factory in the southern province of Songkhla early last month.

Their employer suddenly stopped hiring them and gave them a final pay cheque.

All of that money has since been spent, she said. Living from month to month, the final portion of the money was soon gone after paying rent, buying food and covering the basic necessities.

The couple needed to borrow money to send home to Cambodia to care for their four children being raised by their maternal grandmother.

Worried their children would not have anything to eat, Channy said she had no choice but get a loan.

“We’re backed into a corner. It looks like I might have to skip some meals to survive this crisis while in Thailand,” she said.

“I pray and wish for the Covid-19 to end and for everything to return to normal so that I can go back to work and have money to send home,” she added.

Sometimes she cooks soup made purely of ivy gourd leaves picked from bushes near her place, which she eats with steamed rice, she said.

Channy said she counted her blessings that state agencies and civic groups had donated fresh produce to her family and other laid-off workers so they can survive, albeit with difficulty.

Suthasini Kaeo-leklai, a member of the Labour Protection Network, the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) and the Migrant Working Group MWRN, said many migrant workers, especially those without any form of income due to business suspension, did not receive the standard unemployment compensation because their employers failed to inform the Social Security Office of the employees’ work suspension or job termination.

Labour rights advocacy groups have tried to help by calling for donations of dried food and other necessities, which have been distributed to affected workers in Bangkok and Samut Prakan, Phetchaburi, Phuket Pathum Thani and Samut Sakhon, said Somphong Sakeao of the Labour Protection Network.

Laid-off migrant workers are not entitled to the 5,000 baht virus relief cash handouts from the government. That is for two reasons: the first being that they are foreign nationals and the second because they subscribe to the Social Security Fund which qualifies them for unemployment compensation.

However, they cannot claim this benefit because their former employers failed to promptly notify the Social Security Office of the termination of their employment.

The rate of compensation amounts to 62% of daily wages with the maximum compensation period capped at 90 days. About 8,000 jobless workers received their first payment on April 27.

An estimated 90,000 migrant Cambodian workers in Thailand had returned home to Cambodia prior to the Khmer New Year, to celebrate the new year as well as to escape border closures and job losses. Extracted from Bangkok Post

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