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Vietnam workers who took advantage of visa-waiver find re-entry difficult

VIETNAMESE MIGRANTS have been taking advantage of a visa-waiver agreement to work illegally in Thailand.

The two nations have an arrangement where Vietnamese citizens can stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa.

They can then leave and re-enter from another neighbouring country for another 30 days with no issue. At present, this process can continue indefinitely.

While a sizeable portion of migrant workers from other nearby countries are smuggled into Thailand by human-trafficking gangs, Vietnamese tend to follow other friends and relatives who have worked in the country. It is not thought that brokers or trafficking gangs are involved.

Demand is said to be high for Vietnamese workers. They are regarded as being skilled, easy to train and hard-working.

Many work in care professions or as maids and shop assistants. Those who don't speak Thai have found employment as night-shift workers at butcher shops.

Many also work in restaurants as kitchen hands, while more attractive individuals are often promoted to become waiters and waitresses. These ones also tend to speak Thai. Such workers can be found in many large provinces in Thailand.

Nguyen Van Xuan, 36, from Nghe An province in Vietnam, recalled how a hired-hand job in Vietnam earned him a maximum of 80,000 dong (about Bt120) daily to support his two young children. He also had to wait at a meeting point where employers selected workers from a large group.

"If I was chosen, I earned money. If not, I went home empty-handed," he said.

A turning point came two years ago when a neighbour visited his relatives and gave Xuan an opportunity to work in Thailand.

He landed a job in a grocery shop in a market in Nakhon Phanom, which paid Bt6,000 a month plus accommodation and three meals a day. With this income, Xuan was able to save a lot of money for his family.

Six months later he got another job working at a chicken slaughterhouse in Khon Kaen for Bt300 a day and has since renewed his 30-day entry via Laos on a monthly basis.

However, May's coup in Thailand has instilled fear among Vietnamese migrants. According to Xuan, some of his fellow migrant workers were unable to re-enter Thailand after exiting. Rumours about a crackdown on migrant workers and hefty fines of anything between Bt10,000 and Bt50,000 imposed on those working without permission spread like |wildfire. As a result, Xuan and many of his friends have returned to Vietnam for the time being as a precaution.

"Many of us decided to return to Vietnam until the situation returns to normal," Xuan said. "We will definitely come back because we love our Thai employers and Thai people are nice and generous and do not take advantage of workers."


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