The Cabinet meeting on May 30, 2023 approved the extension of work permits to three neighbouring countries, including Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The authority paid more attention to the 200,000 Myanmar workers currently working in Thailand whose work permits are already invalid.
It is reported that the Ministry of Labour had previously submitted the proposal, but it was rejected as the approval will be tied to the next government.
Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, explained the Cabinet foresaw that the appointment of the new Prime Minister and the new government would take a long time, which could pose a problem causing these workers to return home. If these workers were to return to their countries, they would not be able to return to Thailand in time after the new government was formed. The cabinet decided to take a measure to address the possible shortage of workers.
Cabinet has approved the extension of the work permit as a matter of urgency but notes that it will only be effective as long as the current government is in office. Should a new government be formed, it is the responsibility of the Minister of the Ministry of Labour to propose the review to the new government. If the new government decides not to allow the extension, the workers will become illegal workers and the police will arrest them, which will scare the employers.
In accordance with the management guidelines for foreigners of three nationalities whose employment term is due for four years between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, and which is due for four years between January 2, 2023 and July 31, 2023, this target group will remain in the Kingdom as a special case and work temporarily until July 31, 2023, utilising documents in lieu of a passport, a work permit, or other documents specified by the Department of Employment.
Wissanu added that the issue of migrant workers does not need to be approved by the Thai Election Commission as it does not fall under the prohibition of the Constitution’s Article 169 (1), as the issue is not tied to or dependent on the state budget as it uses employers’ money.
According to the Federation of Thai Industries, Thailand will still have an estimated shortage of 350,000 to 500,000 workers this year until May 2023. Although the situation with Covid-19 has improved, not all workers have returned.
In February 2023, the total number of migrant workers in Thailand will be 1.4 million, a 52 per cent decrease from the pre-Covid-19 period. The majority of migrant workers are from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. They work in agriculture and livestock, construction and services.
Compared to the statistics for December 2019 and February 2023, the number of Cambodian workers decreased the most, by 70.54 per cent, from 687,009 to 202,364.
For Myanmar, the country with the highest proportion of migrant workers in Thailand, the number of workers fell by 53.55 per cent, from 1.82 million to 848,173. For Laos, the number of workers fell by 52.42 per cent, from 281,345 to 133,859 persons.