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Migrant workers will be barred from bringing their relatives into Thailand from the beginning of 2017, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
“After 2016, foreign workers will not be allowed to bring their relatives with them,” Gen. Prayut said at a conference on enhancing labour cooperation in the CLMTV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar [Burma], Thailand and Vietnam) region in Bangkok on Friday.
Delegates from neighbouring countries, including those at ministerial level, took part in the conference.
The premier also stressed the nationality verification process for new migrant workers must be carried out in their countries of origin.
If the process fails to be undertaken in the countries of origin, the movement of labour will not be possible, Gen. Prayut said.
He also called on other countries to prepare for the nationality verification process so it would not be a burden.
He said each country must deploy teams to help solve the problem if needed.
According to the prime minister, several leaders asked for some time to handle the matter.
Gen. Prayut said he was aware the Philippines has an effective approach to taking care of foreign labourers and their citizens who go and work overseas, adding that such ideas must be studied.
He said all countries must work together to ensure workforce equality and reduce labour exploitation.
Gen Prayut said illegal entry by foreign workers also leads to officials committing malfeasance through bribery. The migrant workers may also be deceived into working without pay, he added.
Efforts must be made to ensure these offences stop and Thailand will do its best to deal with these problems, the premier said.
He noted that job placement firms bringing in foreign workers must improve their services and practices to close any loopholes which officials can exploit.
Gen. Prayut insisted the scourge of human trafficking will no longer be tolerated, adding that his government will assign importance to reducing corruption with punishment being meted out against those officials involved.
It is necessary to regulate migrant workers to prevent conflicts that may arise in ASEAN in the same way that has happened elsewhere in the world, he noted.
“Our part of the world is unique and attractive, but there are still problems of security and people being deceived. We must not allow these problems to happen again,” Gen. Prayut said.
Speaking after the conference, Thai Labour Minister Sirichai Distakul said the CLMTV countries agreed to work together on labour issues to protect workers from being exploited and to develop their skills.
He said Thailand also called on its neighbours to speed up the nationality verification process for more than one million workers by 31 March next year as planned.
Requests have been made to Burma, Laos and Cambodia to send their teams to help authorities in Thailand verify the nationalities of workers, Gen. Sirichai said.
Thailand also asked them to prevent people aged under 18 from coming to work in the country and lying about their age.
Referring to Gen. Prayut’s policy of banning the dependents of migrant workers from entering the country and sending them back in 2017, Gen. Sirichai said proper measures will be sought and must proceed gradually to ward off panic as these dependents have been staying in Thailand for a long time.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 5 September 2015.