PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/Asia News Network): Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that Thailand has responded to Cambodia’s concerns that the Move Forward Party might repatriate Cambodian and Laos migrant workers in Thailand.
The Thai party confirmed that none of their policies involved the repatriation of workers from neighbouring countries.
The remarks came as Hun Sen met with over 18,000 factory workers on June 8 in Samaki Meanchey district, Kampong Chhnang province.
“I am pleased to say that I received information from Thailand yesterday. After I expressed concerns that the Move Forward Party would repatriate Cambodian and Laos migrant workers, the party informed us that not only would it not deport the workers, it proposes to facilitate improved social protections for them,” he said.
“We are no longer concerned over the possible deportation of the Cambodians who are working in Thailand. I always pay close attention to matters which concern the loss of jobs or benefits to workers overseas,” he added.
Hun Sen noted that cooperation on concerning immigrant workers is protected by the Asean framework. Therefore, the workers must receive protection.
“In Cambodia, there are also foreign workers. Therefore, we must pay close attention to protecting their working conditions. I have thanked the Thai party for their assurances,” he said.
Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng said on June 8 that migration from one country to another is a global economic norm. According to the Organisation for Migration (IOM), 2021 saw 281 million international migrant workers.
He added that in Asia, there were 115 million migrant workers. In Europe, there were 63 million. In Asean, nearly 25 million workers are working in a foreign country.
He continued that as of May, over 1.3 million Cambodians are working overseas. Of the number, 1.2 million are in Thailand, 49,000 in South Korea, 22,000 in Malaysia and 19,000 in Japan. Each of these workers enjoys other benefits, including high wages and access to social security funds, according to the labour laws of their host country.
“These workers are paid about $1,500 a month in South Korea, about $1,400 in Japan, about $400 in Thailand and around $300 in Malaysia,” he explained.
“They send home over $2.7 billion a year in remittances, while also acquiring valuable skills and work experience. This means they make a significant to the Kingdom’s development when they return,” he added.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina suggested that the Cambodian government create more job opportunities for Cambodians rather than see its people forced to leave their homeland to work overseas.
“Of course, if the Thai authorities sent the migrant workers home, it would be very challenging, because we would be unable to provide them with immediate work,” he said.
Centre for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) programme officer Dy The Hoya said on June 8 that the suggestion that the Move Forward Party has a policy to repatriate migrant workers from neighbouring countries was false, as the winning party has no such policy.
“The government would have to be prepared to offer them work if they were deported, as they are one of the driving forces behind national economic development,” he added.
The Move Forward Party said in a June 7 statement that they recognised the important contribution made by the migrant workforce to the economic and social development of Thailand.
“Therefore, we aim to expand and improve regular pathways to facilitate the entry and employment of migrant workers in Thailand, provide them with appropriate protection and ensure that such pathways are free from extortion, coercion, or other forms of exploitation,” it said.
“Additionally, the Move Forward Party’s foreign policy attaches importance to fostering cooperation within Asean with a view to ensuring peace, security, and prosperity for the region.
" We are committed to working closely with fellow Asean countries to achieve a prosperous economy, good governance, and an equitable society in which the human rights of everyone are respected and protected with human security at the top of our agenda,” it added.