Law on migrant workers delayed

national July 01, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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Enforcement of fines for defaulting employers on hold for 120 days; private sector seeks say in hiring foreign labour

THE GOVERNMENT will delay enforcing stringent measures to penalise violators of the new foreign labour law by 120 days to minimise negative impacts on employers and migrant workers, according to deputy premier Wissanu Krea-ngam.

Wissanu said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will exercise his authority under Article 44 of the interim charter to suspend enforcement of sections 101, 102 and 122 of the new law during the 120-day period, starting June 23, so that all the parties have more time to comply with the new requirements.

The resolution came after a meeting of Wissanu and related agencies –the Labour Ministry, the Council of State, National Security Council, the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking at Government House.

The Board of Trade and Federation of Thai Industries earlier called on the government to ease the pressure on employers of migrant workers since, under the new law, they would be subject to a heavy fine of Bt400,000 to Bt800,000 per migrant worker if they are found to have hired workers who do not have proper documentation.

According to the new law, migrant workers also face a heavy fine of up to Bt100,000 per person and/or a jail term of up to five years, if they do not have valid work permits, while recruitment agencies can be fined up to Bt1 million per migrant worker if they violate the law.

The private sector also asked the government to open a new round of registration for migrant workers while its representatives should be involved in helping to draft regulations on employment of migrant workers. In addition, they asked the government to launch a major public relations campaign to boost awareness of stringent measures under the new law.

However, Wissanu said a new round of registration may not be possible at this stage since it runs counter to earlier agreements signed with Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia as well as the government’s efforts to eradicate illegal migrant workers in the fisheries industry.

He said the government is worried there would be a new influx of migrant workers if there is a new round of registration, while it is also committed to enforcing the law to tackle human trafficking issues.

During the 120-day period, authorities will not arrest illegal migrant workers and others concerned, except in cases of human trafficking. In addition, migrant workers from Myanmar and other countries may return to their home countries to get proper documents so they may re-enter Thailand legally.

Migrants who earlier entered Thailand legally but worked in provinces not designated in their permits, will be required to make a proper change in their permits.

The new foreign labour law is aimed at modernising the country’s legal framework to manage the millions of migrant workers now inside the country. 

According to Prayut, the new law is necessary because there are a huge number of illegal migrant workers in Thailand, especially those working in households, small and medium-sized enterprises and in retail and other sectors.

Prayut also said the Thai labour minister would go to Myanmar to negotiate with his counterpart on a proposal for Myanmar people who have valid passports to enter Thailand to work legally.

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, coordinator of a migrant population network, said the new law had prompted migrant workers to return to their home country with a daily outflow of about 2,000 Myanmar workers, while the number of Cambodian workers entering Thailand has sharply dropped.

The outflow will lead to a labour shortage in Thailand, especially for low-pay jobs, he said, adding: “People are worried about the heavy fines in the new law. In addition, there could be more illegal payments to officials to employ migrants.”

He said the government should listen to varying opinions before enforcing the law, while the labour ministry said it had already held four rounds of registration for migrant workers. 

To help both employers and migrant workers comply with the new law, the ministry urges illegal workers to return home to get proper documents. They are also encouraged to register their new employers in Thailand if they have changed their workplace.

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