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Government issues new migrant worker threat

The Labour Ministry has urged migrant workers to have their nationalities verified by their respective countries or risk being deported after their work permits expire this year.

Ananchai Uthaipattanacheep, the ministry spokesman, said the decision was in line with a recent cabinet resolution to enforce regulations agreed upon in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with neighbouring countries that states migrants must be verified by their home countries.

The cabinet resolution is part of the government's efforts to prevent forced labour and human trafficking, while those convicted of such offences will face harsher penalties under the 2017 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Thailand has an MoU on labour cooperation with Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Current migrant workers are required to pass a nationality verification process conducted by Thai officials, to extend their work period in the country.

Migrants who fail to report to officials during the verification period will be arrested and deported to their home countries.

Mr Ananchai said the work permits of migrants in the marine fisheries industry expired on Jan 24, while those in the processed fishery product industry run out on Feb 22.

However, they will be allowed to stay in Thailand until Nov 1.

Meanwhile, permits of the remaining migrants in all other industries will expire on March 31.

Labour Minister Sirichai Distakul urged Thai employers to have their migrant workers undergo the nationality verification process before the end of the current "lenient period".

Meanwhile, Singhadet Chu-umnart, director-general of the Employment Department (DOE), said Gen Sirichai ordered the department to import migrant labourers from other sources to replace those who failed to undergo the verification process.

Nationality-verified workers, on the other hand, will be allowed to work in the kingdom for more than two years and be entitled to benefits, including the welfare equivalent to what Thais are eligible for, under Thai labour law, he said.

The nationality verification process has struggled to get a foothold among employers since 2014.

Of 1.3 million migrant workers nationwide, only 897,828 have attended the verification process.

According to the DOE, Myanmar authorities are planning to open nationality verification centres: two in Sumut Sakhon's Muang district, one each in Samut Prakan's Muang district, Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district, Tak's Mae Sot district, and Ranong's Muang district.

However, more details will be known after Myanmar authorities have firmed up the plans.

As for Cambodian workers, their authorities will process and issue them passports and other travel documents once they have completed the nationality verification process. A batch of documents has already been provided to many Cambodian labourers.

The government is working with Laos to ensure its workers can have their nationality verified as soon as possible.