20,000 migrant Lao workers register with Thai authorities

Lao construction workers at a site in Thailand. - VT

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): Improved cooperation between Lao and Thai labour authorities has enabled Thailand’s labour ministry to register almost 20,000 undocumented Lao migrant workers.

Lao nationals working in Thailand have encountered difficulties in getting information about proper registration with Thai authorities because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has slowed their registration on the Thai government’s books, labour officials say.

However, Lao labour authorities expect the registration process to move at a faster pace following an employment cooperation agreement between the two countries.

Over the next month, labour authorities in both Laos and Thailand will do more to register and provide assistance to Lao workers in Thailand who do not have legal documentation, following an announcement on the matter by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Officials from Laos’ Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare plan to go to Thailand to help register and formalise the status of Lao workers in the country.

In the meantime, Thailand’s government will allow undocumented migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to work in the country legally.

Director General of the Department of Labour Skill Development and Employment under Laos’ Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Anousone Khamsingsavath, told Vientiane Times on Monday (May 23) that the Thai government has promised support for Lao migrant workers living in the country and will offer assistance to both illegal and legal Lao nationals who want to continue to work in Thailand.

They will confirm workers’ Lao nationality as required by the Ministry of Public Security. Workers will also be given temporary identity papers issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as work permits issued by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

According to Cambodia’s Khmer Times, the Thai government has introduced purple cards for foreign workers without full documentation as an interim measure.

This gives workers time to apply for the necessary documents including a work permit and visa as well as a passport after confirming their nationality with their country of origin. Thailand’s labour ministry is looking to legalise undocumented migrants working in the kingdom’s service sector amid high demand for imported labour.

If the plan is approved, some illegal workers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will be given the chance to register to work legally in Thailand.

The special registration, believed to benefit about 50,000–60,000 migrants already working in the country, will begin two weeks after the cabinet approves a resolution on the matter put forward by Thailand’s labour ministry.

For several years, Lao workers in Thailand have not received protection under Thai law because their status was not formalised.

All Lao nationals who carry work permits have legal working status in Thailand.

Thailand has set up assistance centres in all of its provinces to register Lao workers who can prove their identity. Thailand currently has about 2.2 million registered migrant workers, mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, but many others work informally in fishing, farming, construction, industry and other fields.

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