All Lao workers who return home to register with the authorities will need to get work permits and passports from labour officials so they can legally work in Thailand.
The Ministry of Labour and Social welfare recently ordered all its provincial departments to provide free work permits, passports and other documents for Lao workers.
Director General of the ministry's Department of Labour Skill Development and Employment, Ms Anousone Khamsingsavath, said last week that labour centres in every district will need to be able to provide the relevant documents for people who have or wish to have jobs in Thailand.
All police departments and police district offices, as well as local authorities, are to stop collecting fines and other fees from Lao workers who return from Thailand, she said.
An anonymous official from Savannakhet province said this new documentation system began in July, including an end to the collection of all fees from Lao workers, as ordered by the provincial authorities. Savannakhet authorities ordered 14 districts in the province to inform Lao workers wanting to register about the new procedures, and to provide a list of workers who return from Thailand in accordance with this order.
Under the order, labour officials can legalise currently illegal workers in Thailand, or they can choose to stay and work in Savannakhet.
Labour officials will help them to find work with development projects in Savannakhet or in other provinces.
The ministry wanted to make sure that workers had the necessary and correct documents so they would be better placed to uphold their rights.
For several years, Lao workers in Thailand have not received protection under Thai law because they have not upgraded their status because of a lack of support in obtaining documentation by local authorities.
Laos and Thailand set up assistance centres in all provinces to register Lao workers. According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, some 71,000 Lao workers in Thailand who hold purple cards have still not proven their identity.
Lao workers account for about 10 percent of the 1.5 million casual labourers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar who are employed in Thailand.