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Thailand opens service centre for migrant workers

Thailand's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has opened a service centre that aims to make it easier for foreigners to get legal work permits.

SAMUT SAKHON: Thailand's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has opened a service centre to regulate the foreign labour market.

It aims to make it easier for immigrants to get legal permits to work in Thailand.

The NCPO also hopes to stop the trafficking and extortion of foreign workers, who end up working illegally in Thailand.

Similar centres will be opened in other coastal provinces on July 7 and the rest of the country by mid-month.

Samut Sakhon province, west of Bangkok, has one of the largest numbers of foreign labourers working in the fishing industry.

Thai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said human trafficking has become a big problem in this area.

To tackle the issue, NCPO started a one-stop service to encourage immigrants to register for a work permit.

On its first day of operations, the office welcomed about 2,000 illegal workers.

Businesses, too, have applied for permits on the behalf of foreign employees, paying about US$40 per application.

Arthit Boonyasophat, governor of Samut Sakhon, said: "For now this is a temporary measure by the NCPO.

“They want all workers that have yet to register to do so. They will then be able to stay in Thailand for 60 days and work for a 60-day period. After 60 days we will check their nationalities and approve further permits for up to one year."

The process has been simplified, removing the excessive bureaucracy of the old system.

It is also about US$80 cheaper.

Each worker has to provide their personal details and proof of employment, and must have done mandatory health checks.

While these centres may bring benefits for foreign workers, such as standardised pay and job security, it's unclear if they will be as beneficial for local businesses, as they too have to give details of their workforce to authorities.

Employers too have to apply for the 60-day permits without a guarantee that workers will complete their contracts.

But at least the cost of work permits has halved.

Business owner Duangdao Risrumwan said: "In the past this process took four days, but with this centre it takes just one day. It's great - we've never had this before."

Migrant workers appeared happy with the new system.

Foreign worker Nwe said: "I am so happy that my employer has offered to pay for my work permit. I will put my all into my work from now on."

More than 200,000 migrant workers had fled Thailand over the past few weeks, after rumours spread of a military-led crackdown on illegal labour.

The exodus threatened Thailand's labour-intensive industries reliant on foreign workers.

A simple, regulated system is a positive step toward controlling illegal labour, but it may only be a short-term solution.

Some business owners are concerned that corruption will return when the military eventually hands over the reins to a civilian government.

Meaning, the futures of migrant workers remain linked to that of Thailand's military government. 

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