A Cambodian decree slashing the passport fee for would-be migrant workers to only $4 (about Bt120) is expected to lead to an influx of workers from the neighbouring country into Thailand.
Cambodian migrant workers who have just returned to Cambodia yesterday greeted the news with joy, in the hope of crossing back to work in Thailand legally.
Thai immigration officials working in the border province of Sa Kaew said they expected a large number of Cambodians to apply for the low-priced passports so that they could work legally in Thailand.
More than 100,000 mostly illegal migrant workers from Cambodia have left Thailand in a rare exodus over the past week following rumours that the junta was planning a violent crackdown on them. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order has repeatedly dismissed the rumour.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday issued a sub-decree mandating that passports for migrant workers and those studying abroad on scholarship cost only $4 and that the passports be delivered to the applicants within 20 days, the Phnom Penh Post reported.
The usual passport fee for a Cambodian national is $124 (about Bt3,800).
“Having granted ordinary passports for migrant workers who must go to work abroad legally, the tax will be the state’s burden, but the migrant workers must pay $4 for the cost of photographs,” the decree says.
Tith Sothea, spokesman for Cambodia’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said the decision had been made in an effort to “reduce the burden” on workers and students who want to go abroad, the Cambodia Daily reported yesterday.
Cambodian immigration officials in the border town of Poipet said yesterday that many Cambodian workers and vendors had asked them to confirm the report about the cheap passports. Those workers and vendors were obviously pleased with their confirmation, according to the officials.
A 30-year-old Cambodian worker who has just returned from Thailand said yesterday that he was happy to hear about the government’s decision to reduce the passport fee. He would apply for his passport and he would come back to work in Thailand soon after he got it. “This time I will work in Thailand legally,” he added.
Police Lt-Colonel Benjapol Rodsawat, deputy commander of Sa Kaew Immigration Police, said yesterday that he expected the problem of illegal labour from Cambodia would be reduced if Cambodians could get their passports for only $4 each.
“A lot of Cambodians will apply for the cheap passports to work in Thailand. It’s easier for us to deal with workers who enter Thailand legally,” he said.