Calls to moderate foreign worker laws
Economists and business operators have urged the government to implement more practical measures in its efforts to regulate the flow of foreign labour into the country, a seminar has been told.
Panellists at the recent event discussed the government’s management of the Royal Decree on Recruitment of Foreigners, particularly regarding the harsher penalties for those who employ foreign workers without work permits.
Implemented on June 23 after it was announced in the Royal Gazette, the decree states those who employ unregistered foreign workers can face a fine of up to 800,000 baht per worker.
Employers who employ migrant workers to do jobs which are not specified under the terms of their work permit could be fined up to 400,000 baht each per worker.
Vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries Suchart Chantaranakaracha said the penalties were too harsh and “did not fit the crime”.
“In practical usage, if the penalties are harsher than the severity of the crime, perpetrators could go to greater lengths to conceal their crimes,” he said. “On the authorities’ part, it could also prove to be an opportunity for bribery and other ways of personal gain.”
Another panellist, Asst Prof Supachai Srisuchart, director at the Institute for Continuing Education and Human Resources at Thammasat University, supported the royal decree, but said it needs to be “packaged better”, having been implemented too quickly.
“It must be taken into account how stagnant we have become in actually improving the skills of Thai workers, after we have been relying on cheaper, foreign labour for such a long time,” Mr Supachai said.
“Changes from the decree have been immediately enforced, and will undoubtedly affect small businesses that have thus far relied on these workers to sustain their livelihood.”
However, as many migrant workers were still reportedly working without work permits after the decree was announced, the regime invoked the Section 44 order in July to postpone the penalties for a further 180 days.
Mr Supachai said another problem the royal decree’s implementation must address is how to speed up the national identification process for registered migrant workers, particularly Myanmar, Lao and Cambodian nationals, as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the respective countries and Thailand.
Meanwhile, Mr Suchart added the government should also look to review a 1979 royal decree that bans foreigners from doing 39 jobs in Thailand, saying the list has become outdated.
“Foreign labour is a necessity, because there still exist several jobs that Thais persistently refuse to do, such as bricklaying and other construction work,” he said. “These jobs are still considered prohibited occupations for foreigners, yet many Myanmar nationals are seen each day at construction sites.”
Private business operators are requesting the government allow migrant workers to do 10 jobs which are currently reserved for Thai nationals under the law.
They include farming, bricklaying, carpentry, masseurs or masseuses, security guards, making jewellery and earthenware, and shoemaking.