The Cabinet has agreed to another four-month extension to a deadline for the registration of undocumented foreign workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos. The measure will take effect from April 14, 2013. This resolution follows a series of extensions previously issued by the government in an effort to ensure that migrant workers have completed the proper immigration procedures.

The government’s efforts also stem from human rights concerns regarding undocumented migrant workers. They are at risk of unfair and poor treatment in comparison with other legal migrant workers and Thai workers, such as receiving lower pay and little or no benefits.

The Cabinet resolution allows undocumented migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos, and their children aged under 15 years, to stay in Thailand for a further period of 120 days (provided that their employers file an application for registration). The extension was agreed because of the large number of applications for registration. Following the period of extension, penalties will be imposed on employers who have not cooperated and illegal migrant workers could face deportation.

A number of migrant workers have flocked into Thailand due to the increase in the minimum wage and the shortage of Thai labour in certain industries (primarily in agriculture, fishing and construction). It is hoped that the registration process will facilitate identification and security control. However, some say that the registration process is cumbersome, expensive and slow, and as a result, many migrant workers are reluctant to enter the process despite their desire for a legal immigration status.

Action for employers

Employers need to legalise their undocumented migrant workers by applying for work permits. Failure to do so within the relevant time period can result in a fine of between 10,000 and 100,000 baht per undocumented employee.