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Exodus of Cambodian workers unlikely

The decision by some 100,000 Cambodian workers to return home after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) announced it would be restricting the number of illegal foreign labourers in the Kingdom, is not expected to have a major impact on the property and construction sector.

This is because leading residential developers use legal foreign labour and have in recent years changed their construction process in order to reduce the number of workers required on-site.

Moreover, most foreign workers involved in Thai construction are from Myanmar and Laos as opposed to Cambodia, Thai Condominium Association president Prasert Tadulayasatit said yesterday.

When the property sector faced a severe labour shortage in 2012 and 2013 due to the then-government's policy of expanding public investment in infrastructure, all major developers found they had to revise their construction process with a view to reducing the number of labourers involved at the project site.

They did this by placing greater emphasis on the prefabrication system, which can reduce the number of on-site labourers by up to 30 per cent compared with the traditional worker-intensive construction process, he explained.

As a result of this change in practice, most residential-property firms will feel little impact from the NCPO's new policy on foreign labour, he added.

Opas Sriyayak, managing director of LPN Development, said the junta should take the opportunity to review the registration system for foreign workers in order to make it more effective, especially for the property sector.

Under current regulations, registered foreign labourers have to remain in the location in which they are registered to work, whereas workers in the property sector need to be able to move from site to site across different locations, he said.

Opas suggested that if the NCPO wanted to tackle the problem of illegal foreign labour, it should also revise the registration rule so that it fitted the different culture of the property industry.

This would reduce the number of illegal workers from neighbouring countries, and also the level of exploitation that results from the current rule, he added.

Vorapote Uchupaiboonvong, executive vice president, accounting and finance, at Ch Karnchang, said the exodus of Cambodian workers from Thailand would not have any direct impact on the group as most of its workers were Thais.

"Only 20-30 per cent of our construction and development works is done through outsourcing to individual subcontractors, and many of them employ alien workers, which are unskilled labour. So, such an incidence has no direct impact on the group.

"We would, however, like to urge our subcontractors to undertake urgent legal registration of their alien workers, to avoid any possible impact in the future," said Vorapote.

Vittakarn Chantavimol, chief marketing officer of AP (Thailand), said his company employed only legal foreign workers, so it had not been affected by the large number of Cambodians fleeing to their home country.

Property Perfect president Chainid Adhyanasakul said his company had not been affected by the lower number of Cambodian workers and continued to deliver its houses to customers on time.

At present, with the number of foreign workers in Thailand totalling about 5 million, the exodus of some 100,000 Cambodians would not negatively affect the property sector because the Kingdom still had plenty of Myanmar and Lao labour, as well as legal Cambodian labourers, he added.


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