Thailand: 60,000 workers flee over new labour laws

Workers return to Myanmar and other countries after government vows to crack down on unregistered foreign labourers.

More than 3 million migrants work in Thailand, according to the IOM [File: Jorge Silva/Reuters]

Tens of thousands of workers have fled Thailand, officials said, after new labour regulations adopted by the military government sparked fear and panic among the migrant community.

About 60,000 workers left between June 23 and 28, and the number has risen since, an immigration official said on Monday.

“They were of all nationalities, but the biggest group was from Myanmar,” Deputy Commissioner Pornchai Kuntee told Reuters news agency. “They are probably very scared.”

A new decree includes fines that can range up to 800,000 baht ($23,557) for employers who hire unregistered foreign workers without permits.

Following initial news of the exodus, authorities promised a 120-day delay in enforcing the new regulations.

During that period, there will be no arrests or or crackdown on illegal workers except “for those who violate human trafficking laws,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters on Friday.

READ MORE: Deep divisions remain after Thailand’s 2014 military coup

Millions of workers from poor neighbours, such as Cambodia and Myanmar, form the backbone of Thailand’s manual labour force, with industries such as the multi-billion-dollar seafood business heavily reliant on foreign workers.

Since taking power in a 2014 coup, Thailand’s military government has attained varying degrees of success in campaigns to regulate the foreign workforce, spurred partly by media reports that unregulated workers faced exploitation by employers.


Geta Devi, 28, a Myanmar worker based in the Thai capital of Bangkok, said some of her friends panicked over the decree and “went back to Myanmar”.

Since last week, up to 500 Cambodian migrant workers have returned home, said Chin Piseth, deputy chief of the Thai-Cambodia border relations office of the Cambodian army.

“According to reports I received, between 400 and 500 were deported,” he told Reuters news agency.

Andy Hall, a British specialist in migrant workers’ rights, said the mass movement leaves undocumented workers vulnerable.

“It’s clear to me tens of thousands of migrants only move like this after instigation,” Hall said.

Despite the threat of punishment, “corrupt officials” would try to seek bribes, he said, adding that “mass profit is to be made in a short time from the panic and commotion.”

IN PICTURES: Cambodian exodus from Thailand

Police trying to extort money from employers or migrant workers face punishment, Thai police chief Chaktip Chaijinda said on Friday, in a bid to discourage such exploitation.

Last month, the US kept Thailand on a trafficking watch list, saying it did not meet the minimum standards to end human trafficking.

Thailand defended its efforts to stop trafficking and urged US officials to visit and gauge its campaign.

More than 3 million migrants work in Thailand, the International Organization for Migration says, but rights groups put the figure higher.

In 2014, at least 250,000 migrants workers fled Thailand over what rights organisations called “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment”.

Source: News agencies

This entry was posted in Corruption - Tham nhũng, Ethnic minority group, Human rights - Nhân quyền, Thailand - Thái Lan, Unregistered foreign workers - Người lao động nước ngoài không đăng ký and tagged , , , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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