Warning on illegal brokers

national July 10, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

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Companies who use unregistered brokers could be accused of human trafficking: Labour ministry



COMPANIES that use illegal brokers to bring migrants to work in Thailand face the risk of being accused of human trafficking, the Labour Ministry warned yesterday, as thousands of migrants continued to flee home amid to widespread fear about the tough new labour law.

The government has ordered that enforcement of the labour law be delayed to allow millions of migrants from neighbouring countries to reprocess their work permits. As many as a million workers from Myanmar alone could return home over the next few months, said Ta Yee, chief of a worker assistance centre.

“I encourage all Myanmar fellows who work illegally in Thailand to take this opportunity to return home to reprocess their documentation and register before getting back to work later as legal workers,” he said.

More than 30,000 undocumented Myanmar workers have been repatriated via the Mae Sot border checkpoint in Tak since the new labour law came into effect, a senior immigration officer said.

Tak immigration police chief Pol Colonel Man Ratanaprateep confirmed the number yesterday. 

He said that the flow of Myanmar workers leaving Thailand was continuing.

Only a few days after the new decree |to manage migrant workers came into force, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) began reviewing the decision in response to panic and the difficulties the law imposes on workers and employers. 

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha last Tuesday invoked his special powers as the NCPO chief, under Article 44, to suspend four key articles of |the decree that prescribe much harsher penalties against offending migrants |and their employers until the end of this year. The decree took effect from June 23, threatening to fine employers at least Bt400,000 for every illegal worker they hire. 

Workers, meanwhile, risk both a jail term and a hefty fine. 

Introduction of the new law caused an uproar from various sides. Several entrepreneurs have said that they will have to close their small businesses at least temporarily. The tough law will force them to terminate the employment of current workers and cause a labour shortage, they charged.

Temporary work registration centres 

In order to end the chaos, the Labour Ministry will allow all Thai employers to register their Lao, Cambodian and Myanmar workers at temporary centres throughout the country from July 24 to August 7. 

It is expected that only half of the estimated five million migrant workers from the three countries are living and working legally. 

There is a risk of human trafficking during this period since illegal brokers might take advantage of the shortage, and supply migrant workers to employers who urgently need workers for their businesses, Department of Employment’s chief Waranon Pitiwan said.

To be clear, only two groups of people are allowed to bring migrant workers to register: employers and authorised brokers, Waranon said.

Authorised brokers must be registered with the Labour Ministry, he said, adding that there are only 81 authorised brokers in Thailand, 38 of them in Bangkok. 

“Those who bring migrant workers to work without permission would be sentenced for 3-10 years of imprisonment or fined Bt600,000 up to Bt1 million, or both,” he said. 

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Puntrik Smiti, said earlier that Thailand needed a tough new labour law, as the country had to comply with international standards and stop using unregistered migrant workers. 

Thailand is on a human-trafficking watch-list of the US State Department. The 2017 trafficking report found for the second year that Thailand had made insufficient effort to tackle the problem. 

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