Thailand Closes Grace Period Registration of Migrant Workers

With the leniency period now over, Thailand has warned that any remaining unregistered migrant laborers may be deported.

Until the August 7 deadline, employers were instructed to register all undocumented workers without risk of facing newly increased fines.

Over 772,000 migrant workers were registered during the recent amnesty window, according to the Thai Labour Ministry. The majority of the workers, or 58 percent, were from Myanmar.

“It was reported online that over 400,000 [Myanmar] workers have been registered. We haven’t officially received the list yet. We will make an official announcement after we receive the list,” said U Aung Ko Than, a labor attaché at the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok.

A new slate of penalties to clampdown on irregular labor was announced in June. Employers could be on the hook for up to 800,000 baht (US$ 24,000) per undocumented migrant worker. Workers who cannot show their permit during an inspection meanwhile can be fined 10,000 baht ($300). If the employer or job listed on the work permit is incorrect, the workers can be fined 100,000 baht ($3,000)

The penalties sparked fear amongst the migrant community in Thailand, and shortly after they were announced, tens of thousands of Myanmar citizens returned over the border. To ease outrage in the migrant heavy construction and agriculture sectors and stem the exodus of laborers, Thailand announced a temporary grace period, promising not to enforce the fines until the end of the year, and to allow a registration window.

According to the Department of Employment (DOE), employers registered a total of 41,389 Myanmar migrant workers in Tak Province alone.

U Moe Gyo, chair of the Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs, said the DOE announced the list during a tri-monthly coordination meeting on August 9.

“The DOE explained how the employers are registering undocumented Myanmar migrant workers in nine districts under Tak Province. We also discussed difficulties faced by migrant workers,” he said, adding that migrant workers are facing long queues and delayed paperwork from the Social Security Office. He also said the increased cost of the certificate of identity documents that regularize the workers’ status is a burden.

Registration fees are 300 baht ($9) for a new work permit or extension of a work permit. The permit is valid until the end of March, 2018. To change the employer listed on the permit the worker must pay another 300 baht.

Around three million Myanmar migrant workers, both document and undocumented, are estimated to be working in Thailand, according to workers’ rights activists.

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