Thousands of migrant workers leave Thailand after labour crackdown

MYAWADDY, MYANMAR (JUNE 30, 2017) (TPBS) – Thousands of irregular migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia are leaving Thailand each day, Thailand’s immigration police said on Friday (June 30), after a decree aimed at managing foreign workers took effect earlier this month.

The Decree on the Management of Foreign Workers Act, which took effect on June 17, stipulates that any employer who hires an undocumented foreign worker faces a fine of up to 800,000 baht ($23,550). The strict penalties have some businesses scrambling to fire undocumented workers or get work permits for existing foreign employees.

The ruling junta says it has made legalizing foreign workers a priority while the country’s immigration police has acknowledged that foreign workers are an essential part of Thailand’s workforce.

Workers from Thailand’s poorer neighbours, including Myanmar and Cambodia, form the backbone of the country’s manual labour force and many industries, including the country’s multi-billion dollar seafood industry, are heavily reliant on foreign workers.