By LAWI WENG
The Thai Labor Ministry will register 400,000 foreign migrant workers to compete in the labor market, mostly in low-paying jobs shunned by Thai nationals.
Jackie Pollock, a founding member of the Chiang Mai-based Migrant Assistance Program, said “It is good for the Thai government to recognize the need of migrants. But they also need to stop the current crackdown and deportation of illegal migrants.”
The Thai Labor Ministry will register 400,000 new foreign workers, granting them permission to work legally in the kingdom, according to a ministry announcement on Tuesday.
Employment department director general Pichai Ekpithakdamrong was quoted by The Nation newspaper, saying: "We have decided to push for the registration of more alien workers because we have found that Thais are not interested in working in the fishery, construction and cold-storage sectors,"
According to the Thai Labor Solidarity Committee (TLSC), based in Mahachai in Samut Sakhon Province, most migrants work in the so-called "three Ds," in the "dirty, dangerous or degrading” sectors of the job market.
The group said there is a need for about 150,000 workers in Samut Sakhon Province, a center for the fishery industry.
“Thai workers don’t want to do the ‘three Ds’ because the work is unhealthy. But it is a good opportunity for Burmese migrants,” said a TLSC member.
Thailand is believed to have nearly 4 million migrant workers. About 500,000 are legally registered.
Most foreign workers live in highly concentrated areas like Mae Sot on the Thailand-Burma border, a center of the Thai garment industry, and Samut Sakhon, a hub for the labor-intensive seafood processing industry, located southwest of Bangkok.
According to the Labor Rights Protection Network, based in Mahachai, there are 200,000 Burmese migrants in Mahachai; an estimated 70,000 workers are legally registered while others are working illegally in hope of qualify for worker permits.
Recently, the global economic crisis in Thailand has forced many Burmese migrants to return to Burma because they can’t find work. The labor ministry estimated 2 million Thai workers are currently unemployed.
The Thai government earlier this year announced it would not offer illegal migrants a chance to register for legal status this year and have increased crackdowns and deportation. About 400 illegal migrants were arrested in Bangkok this week.