Cambodian workers temporarily barred

national April 23, 2016 01:00

By The Nation

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Move to be in effect until july 29 to facilitate thai census on migrants

CAMBODIA’S Labour Ministry has agreed to suspend issuing travel documents for four months for its nationals wanting to work in Thailand, at the request of its Thai counterpart.
The Phnom Penh-based Cambodia Daily reported yesterday the request had been made because the Thai side was currently conducting a census into migrants in the country. The suspension commenced on April 1 and is effective until July 29, according to a statement released on Wednesday, the newspaper said.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said Cambodian migrant workers already in Thailand would also have to request written permission from the Thai Labour Ministry in order to leave the country during the census, and would only be able to do so under exceptional circumstances. Sour added that workers would not be able to cross the border with a “pink card”, which allows them to work in Thailand as they await passports and visas.
“They will find it difficult to leave Thailand because they can’t use a pink card, so they have to go to labour officials in Thailand to be issued a permission letter,” he said.
Moeun Tola, who heads Central (the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights) – a Cambodian labour-rights group – said the suspension would not stem the flow of Cambodians to Thailand. 
Desperate for decent-paying jobs, many migrants have already chosen to cross the border illegally in order to avoid red tape and administrative costs.
“I think Thai business mostly depends on migrant workers. Even though the Thai government has issued this [suspension] policy, I’m sure Thai businesses will not be happy with it because they depend on a lot of migrant workers – not only from Cambodia, but also from Myanmar and Laos. It is impossible to stop migrant workers [entering Thailand illegally],” he explained.
“To go to Thailand via the legal procedure, it [takes] too long, and also people have to spend a lot of money in terms of recruitment fees or for documents, and so on,” he said.
“People choose to just migrate illegally …. People will keep going, keep going,” he added.
Three countries covered
The Thai Cabinet decided in February to conduct a census on foreign workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar among those whose work permits were due to expire at the end of March, to have them renewed by the end of July. 
The Khmer Times reported that the Cambodian Labour Ministry had been informed that the move was to ensure “systematic management of foreign workers to meet international standards” and the legality of foreign workers.
Cambodian officials said a Cambodian committee in Thailand set up to assist migrants in obtaining documents to work in the country would suspend its services. Up to one million Cambodians live and work in Thailand and about 40 per cent of them do so illegally, according to estimates by migrant-rights groups.
“Following a request from 
 Thailand’s Labour Ministry, the committee decided to postpone providing passports or travel cards to Cambodian workers overseas from April 1 to July 29,” said Labour Minister Ith Samheng, who also chairs the committee that helps Cambodian migrant workers become legal in Thailand.
Dy Thehoya, programme officer at Central, said his labour-rights group had raised concerns that Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand were required to pay extra fees to fill in forms or obtain other documents at the One Stop Service centres. 

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