Migrant registration weeds out 1,200 under-age workers
WRITER: PENCHAN CHAROENSUTHIPAN
More than 1,200 of over 60,000 undocumented migrant workers have failed to pass an inspection of their working conditions, a prerequisite to giving them legal working status in Thailand, the Labour Ministry said Thursday.
The inspection, which also verifies they are employed as claimed, is the first step in the process of granting proper visas to several thousand foreign labourers from neighbouring countries who have been working in the country illegally.
Only 772,270 workers reported to authorities by Monday's deadline as the government has extended a grace period for them to come forward to apply for the necessary permits.
Their actual number is believed to be in the millions, although many have reportedly returned to Cambodia and Myanmar already to escape possible punishment.
After the deadline, labour officials spent three days interviewing employers and checking the backgrounds of 63,515 employees.
Of these, 61,303 passed but 1,234 workers failed the test, with authorities claiming many were too young to be legally employed.
"The officials are not certain of their exact ages," said Labour Minister Sirichai Distakul, adding the law prohibits the hiring of workers aged under 15.
Their employers were told to take the young workers to have their bone mass checked by doctors so their true ages can be verified.
Workers aged between 15 and 18 are permitted to perform only certain jobs to minimise the risk of workplace accidents, according to Thai law.
The children of migrant workers must return to their country if they do not have a "pink card" granted by the government for temporary stays in the country, Gen Sirichai said.
His ministry is considering extending the period for workplace inspections from 30 days while some of the more complicated cases are solved, he said.
The workers must have their nationalities verified to obtain Certificate of Identity papers, which are needed for visa applications.
If the candidate also passes a physical health exam and organises his or her health insurance, a work permit should be issued.
Myanmar authorities have set up six centres to verify worker's nationalities. Two are in Samut Sakhon while Samut Prakan, Ranong, Tak's Mae Sot district and Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district all have one, said labour spokesman Ananchai Uthaiphatthanachip.
The authorities are mulling three more centres in Chiang Mai, Nakhon Sawan and Songkhla due to the high numbers of Myanmar workers in those provinces, he said.
Cambodia has prepared a similar centre at its embassy in Bangkok and plans to branch it out to Rayong and Songkhla, Mr Ananchai added.
All these steps are aimed at reducing the impact of an executive decree on the recruitment of undocumented alien labourers, recently approved by the National Legislative Assembly.
Although mindful of human trafficking, the government has agreed to suspend some sections of the law until Jan 1.
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