Summary of the roundtable discussion on
“The Economic and Social Recovery Post Covid-19 Concerning the management of migrant workers in Phuket”
20 April 2023, 09.30 – 16.30 at the Pago Design Hotel, Phuket, a roundtable discussion on “The Economic and Social Recovery Post Covid-19 Concerning the management of migrant workers in Phuket” has been organized by the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) and the Andaman Friendship Association. It was an opportunity for representatives from the employers, NGOs, and government agencies to have an exchange and sharing on the situation of economic recovery and labour in Phuket and to explore the challenges which may help to develop proposal to promote sustainable social and economic development in Phuket.
(1) MWG presenting an overview of the situation of migrant workers, revealing the number of migrant workers in 2023 has reached more than 3 million whilst 560,000 risking being undocumented due to glitches in the state registration and complicated procedure, which may affect employers in dire need of labour, particularly in the booming tourism industry of Phuket post the Covid-19 pandemic
Mr. Adisorn Kerdmongkhol, Migrant Working Group’s Coordinator, gave an overview of the situation of migrant workers revealing that the accumulated number of migrant workers in Thailand up until January 2023 has reached 3,055,822. Most of them, 70%, have come from Myanmar or about 2.1 million, while 21% or 640,000 from Cambodia, 9% or 280,000 from Lao, and less than 1% or 2,400 from Vietnam. The number of migrant workers travelling to Thailand in 2023 has reached the historic level, particularly migrant workers from Myanmar mired in security issues and armed conflicts the past couple of years. A worrying issue is, however, concerned with how as many as 561,636 migrant workers have missed out from the registry including 554,531 workers supposed to renew their work permits pursuant to the cabinet resolution on 7 February 2023.
Regarding the situation, Adisorn analyzed that the key factor that has driven the migrant workers from the registry was due to problems regarding labour registration conducted by public authorities in the past four years post the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020-2023. During 2020 -2023, to address problems in the registration of migrant workers, 17 cabinet resolutions have been issued to extend the implementation period eight times, to offer four windows of opportunity of registration, and five opportunities to renew permits. The registration of the migrant workers continued to comply with the normal MoU procedure to bring in Thailand the workers under which such migrant workers are allowed to work for two years and can renew their permit for another two years. After working for four years, the migrant workers are required to return to their country to reenter again through the MoU procedure giving them 30 days of rest time. Problems have occurred as a result of the highly complicated registration system giving a loophole for the brokers to exploit and to manage the registration for their vested interest which would not have happened in a normal registration process.
Adisorn reiterated that such complication in the registration process of the migrant workers has dissuaded to offer help to their employers. Rather, the employees are left at their own devices to manage to get registered by themselves. This has incurred the migrant workers an extra payment of 12,000-18,000 baht/person in order to come and work in Thailand legally. Since most migrant workers who have decided to come and work here have to endure improvement, it has caused their families to become indebted as they have to borrow money to pay for the registration and to acquire work permits even before the workers can start generating income. This has given rise to a debt cycle and unfair use of migrant labour as well as human trafficking and corruption within and outside the system. The problems from the registration of migrant workers are not just related to the application for work permit, but are also indicative of the lack of access to various benefits among the migrant workers who have no work permits including being treated as illegal migrants, deprived of access to medical services, and being engaged in forced labour. This has made Thailand become a hub of illegal and informal labour force which will affect our credential and export of goods at the global level including fishing products, etc.
Lastly, Adisorn noted that it is a challenge to continue with the MoU importation of labour while ensuring safe migration. According to him, the state MoU system is redundant and time-consuming with an increase of expense. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused families to incur more debt while the workers can risk even more from becoming indebted while trying to apply for employment through the MoU system. In 2023, more than 500,000 migrant workers are supposed to undergo the procedure under the MoU system (those working for 4 years and 6 years), while there are less option to work legally. A lack of clarity and certainty in the sending country has caused even more delay and increased the likelihood the migrant workers may try to enter the country illegally to work more than the past ten years. Therefore, the existing complicated and problematic registration and laws making it challenging when workers want to get registered will continue to affect our national security and are not compatible with the need to grow our national economy, particularly in Phuket, a hub of tourism that generate much revenue to Thailand.
(2) Phuket Provincial Development unveiling ’ 10 economic pillars’ post Covid-19 pandemic, Chamber of Commerce and Phuket Industrial Council highlighting labour shortage, meanwhile, workers not having the skills for new normal trade– fishing business having to place more importance on human rights since it affects international trade
Session 1 of the discussion “The economic recovery in Phuket post Covid-19 pandemic” features speakers including 1. Mr. Watcharapong Chiso, Director of the Sub-Division on Strategies and Information for the Provincial Development Office of Phuket, 2. Mr. Charin Thamrongkiatkul, Chairperson of Phuket Industrial Council, and 3. Mr. Charan Sangsan, Vice Chairperson and Executive Secretary of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce. It was highlighted in the discussion the practice of the state and business sectors to address the impacts faced by employers during the Covid-19 pandemic and how people in all sectors had to face the consequences from the situation. In the business sector, both the employers and the employees have been directly impacted.
Mr. Watcharapong Chiso, Director of the Sub-Division on Strategies and Information for the Provincial Development Office of Phuket addressed the Phuket provincial development plan and how it was related to the National Economic and Social Development Plan. Even though only having the area of 540,000 square kilometers, consisted of three districts including Thalang, Kathu and Muang, and with 410,000 people, Phuket is a major tourism hub of the world and multisector of businesses. According to data of 2022, there are incoming 4.8 million tourists generating the revenue of 160 billion baht per annum. Of 990 billion baht of Phuket’s GPP, it can be divided into 92 billion baht in non-agricultural sector in 2021 and 7 billion baht in agricultural and fishing sectors in 2021.
As to the concept of economic development in Phuket, Watcharapong reiterated that the shift from the sole development of tourism as a key revenue to the development of economic promotion through the ‘10 economic pillars of Phuket’ (GEMMSSTTF) consisted of Gastronomy since Phuket is one of 36 cities around the world recognized by UNESCO for its unique cuisine culture, being a Creative City Network, as a first in Thailand and ASEAN, being Education Hub for international and regional education hub, being Medical & Wellness Hub with an attempt to promote Phuket as a medical tourism hub in Andaman including the project to develop Vachira Phuket Hospital on par with international standards, being Marina Hub with the development of marinas to boost tourism and serve small to large commercial boats for tourism, being Mice City to promote international fairs, being Smart City to promote technology to accommodate to labour by public and private sectors, being Sports Tourism to develop international sports tourism, serving Tourism by expanding infrastructure including airports, roads, bridges, etc. to accommodate to tourism, being Tuna Hub to promote Tuna industry at the ASEAN region, and lastly being Fusion Farm to promote local community businesses in Phuket to ensure it reaches out to all groups of people.
“The private sector has in the past few months complained about labour shortage in Phuket. They even say that they can accept any workers who manage to get here given their desperation. As to labour, it is also concerned with national security policy and when it concerns national security, the provincial authorities tend to have rather restricted power. Most policies have to be issued by the cabinet, the government and the Ministry of Labour…I can only deal with the overview at the provincial level. Initially, the Governor has coordinated with the Ministry of Labour repeatedly as to the need to accommodate migrant workers and Thai workers.…What we can do within our power is skill development. How can we ensure workers in Phuket can develop their skills to accommodate to the strategic plan of the 10 economic pillars” said the Director of the Sub-Division on Strategies and Information for the Provincial Development Office of Phuket.
Mr. Charin Thamrongkiatkul, Chairperson of Phuket Industrial Council said that the Covid-19 pandemic took a big toll on hotel business given that no tourists came to Thailand. The impact was felt in the industrial sector as well since most of the industries in Phuket have to rely on tourism industry, be it construction, boat and car repair services, etc. During the time, the Phuket Industrial Council was stunned since everything collapsed and we had no idea when it would recover. Therefore, several industries had to bear the brunt. The number of workers has declined, people have returned to their hometown. The situation in Phuket was unique since we exclusively have to rely on tourism while other provinces may still make do with agriculture. The factories that served export were not severely affected. The workers who have been laid off have to find jobs in other provinces. Right now, the economy is recovering and we are encountering labour shortage in hotel sector and others. What the Phuket Industrial Council has done before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What the private sector in Phuket proposed including sandbox was not well received and approved by the government. We had to make much effort to push it through. It happened at the expense of the deprivation of compensation of the province. But it has after all helped to restore trust among tourists. The private sector has proposed the 10 economic pillars, one of which is TUNA HUB. In the past ten years, Phuket has become a hub of deep-sea fishery. Tuna supplies have been unloaded at the piers in Ao Makam and Ao Sire. It drives up employment and Tuna export. In Asia, Phuket has become a hub for unloading Tuna. The fishing fleet from Taiwan come to Phuket quite a lot…But following the military coup, Europe has imposed a sanction on us. They invoke human rights issues…Then, at the meetings of the Phuket Industrial Council, we have to listen to how the fishing fleet in Pattani has to suspend their operation. If they violate this ban, they would be shot down. About 3,000 boats have to stop operation, each one costs about 30-40 million baht. The Tuna catch which used to generate us revenue has gone, so has the factories” said Mr. Charin Thamrongkiatkul, Chairperson of Phuket Industrial Council.
Mr. Charan Sangsan, Vice Chairperson and Executive Secretary of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce said that post Covid-19 pandemic, tourism in Phuket has robustly recovered and generated great revenue. Tourists, Thai and foreign, have flocked here. What is still concerning is the grassroots people. There is a plan to collaborate between private and state sectors to link up with all groups. Phuket is a hub of businesses from hotel business to industries. We feature even cultural tourism, community-based tourism, and even religious tourism such as the vegetarianism festival which has gone so big in Thailand. Phuket has capitalized on its identity using it as a key impetus to drive tourism and economy. Phuket boats 58 MICHELIN Guide Restaurants which generate more than 100 billion baht per annum from this cultural economy. Therefore, Phuket’s tourism has much room to grow and sustains the need for labour supply to serve the expansion of Phuket city.
(3) The involvement of migrant workers to help drive Phuket’s economy, private sector echoing the dire need of migrant labour, but being burdened with applying for work permits of the workers–driving many workers to become undocumented
Session 2 of the discussion “The involvement of migrant workers to help drive Phuket’s economy” featured speakers including 1. Mr. Don Phoncharat, Skill Development Technical Officer, Senior Professional Level, Director of Sub-division on Skill Development, Institute For Skill Development 21 Phuket, 2. Dr. Kawin Poonyokul, Deputy Managing Director on Gardening, CB Group company, and 3. Mr. Sheet Tun Aye, a migrant worker and Deputy Director of Andaman Friendship Association. The morning discussion is largely focused on reflections from the business and labour sectors concerning the situation during the Covid-19 pandemic and the demand during the economic recovery of Phuket. In addition, we want to hear recommendations form the state sector, skill development specialist from the Institute For Skill Development to explore ways to develop the skills to meet the demands of business sector and the demands of employers at present.
Mr. Sheet Tun Aye, a migrant worker and Deputy Director of Andaman Friendship Association said that at present, more people from Myanmar have come to work in Phuket. Thos who have returned to Myanmar during the Covid-19 pandemic have now returned here. Still, many of them have to eke out their living since given the situation in Myanmar they cannot return to their country again. Being left unemployed in Phuket, the workers have to suffer a lot since they have no food, water, electricity, and the children of migrant workers have no access to education until now. When the border is opened, the workers who have returned here have to endure problems concerning the renewal of their documents. Many workers have to look for money to hire brokers to help them get registered. Since they have been unemployed for a long time, it has forced them to become indebted to raise enough money to get registered in the system. In each family with children, the expense would increase substantially. Another issue is the migrant workers in Phuket are yet paid minimum wage at the rate of 357 baht/day according to the law. As a result, the workers remain trapped in the cycle of debts adding up from what they incurred during their unemployment since the Covid-19 pandemic. Given such problems in labour registration, it would be hard from the workers to recover and attain a good quality of life from their working.
Dr. Kawin Poonyokul, Deputy Managing Director on Gardening, CB Group company said that regarding the GDP growth in Thailand, at present, the growth in agricultural sector stands merely at 8% down from 30%. Therefore, the economic growth in Thailand’s service and industrial sectors in Phuket relies on tourism. Asking if the people in agricultural sector have become richer in the past ten years or have been impoverished. It has come down to 8% in Phuket, less than 1% of the GDP. 24 years ago, Thailand ranked among the top countries with competitive advantage in agricultural sector. At present, we have been defeated by even Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Lao. A key factor is wage. For rubber business, in the past we used labour from Thailand and the Northeast for rubber tapping. But 20 years past, the people in the Northeast have become owners of the rubber plantations. No one from the Northeast wants to work as rubber tappers anymore. Secondly, Thailand is an aging society. The agricultural sector will suffer from labour shortage. It has to employ agricultural technologies to minimize labour costs and personnel costs and has to rely more on technologies. This is a key challenge. For countries with advance agricultural sector like the USA, they predominantly adopt technologies for 1,000 – 10,000 rais of land. (1) The business sector has to explore plantation with less labour intensively while relying more on technologies. (2) Increase skill or management rather than exclusively relying on monoculture to generate more indirect income for the employers and the workers. (3) Grow plants with high value-addedness. Companies have to study the issue. We must get prepared while the government has to come up with response.
Mr. Don Phoncharat, Skill Development Technical Officer, Senior Professional Level, Director of Sub-division on Skill Development, Institute For Skill Development 21 Phuket said that as to skill development, there is no law that directly supports the migrant workers. We have to understand that the taxpayers’ money in Thailand is still used pretty much to develop skills of Thai nationals. There is another avenue which can help to develop the skills of migrant workers which is the Skill Development Promotion Act B.E. 2545 which encourages employers to develop the skills of migrant workers who are here to work legally. The employers can design their own curriculum and can claim tax deductions from the expense incurred from such skill development activities. Meanwhile, the competent officials can act as mentors to offer advice and to promote the projects that help to develop skills by inviting people with the expertise as resource persons. Until now, construction companies have offered training to their migrant workers including on basic brick laying, and the employers can claim tax deductions from such training expense.
(4) Department of Employment acknowledging Phuket’s labour shortage, but more than two million of migrant workers failing to renew work permits as required by the cabinet resolution on 13 February 2023, vulnerable for workers to become undocumented, if waiting until next government formed after election, it may affect social security benefits and deprivation of many rights of migrant workers
Session 3 of the discussion “Management of labour: Legal limitations and challenges concerning migrant workers in Phuket” featured speakers including Mr. Chat Chabprang, Labour Specialist, Practitioner Level, Phuket Provincial Office of Employment, Mr. Pairat Boonchu, Social Security Specialist and Mr. Thanapong Orachorn, Phuket Provincial Office of Labor Welfare and Protection. The three representatives highlighted the implementation and the roles of authorities concerned with migrant workers in Phuket, their challenges and limitations during the Covid-19 pandemic and their preparation before easing up and the booming of tourism in Phuket.
Mr. Chat Chabprang, Labour Specialist, Practitioner Level, Phuket Provincial Office of Employment said that at present, 13 February 2023 was the expiry date of work permits all over the country, except the MOU workers and therefore there were supposed to be two million workers required to renew their permits. This might create a lot of problems starting with the migrant workers regarding the registration process. (1) Mismatched of information in the cards and the database might impeded further operation. (2) After changing employers, if no discharge notification had been made leaving the work permits to expire, the workers will become undocumented. There are many cases as such. (3) After quitting job, it is required by law to land a new job within 60 days. But the migrant workers might not be aware of this, and continued to work as hired labour in agricultural sector, rubber plantation, until their legal status has expired and it is no longer possible to renew the permits. These are the three most common problems which become an obstacle for the migrant workers who work in Thailand legally. It has given rise to other cycles that further impede their access to labour rights.
“Early 2023, about 50,000 migrant workers have renewed their work permits to until 15 May 2023 without having to submit a complete set of documents. Looking back before the Covid-19 pandemic in around 2019, there were about 60,000 migrant workers including those having no civil registration and ethnic groups. But during 2020 – 2022, the Covid-19 pandemic forced workers to miss out on the registry and there were only 30,000 registered workers. At present, the number of workers who have returned can yet satisfy the demand of labour market since Phuket needs around 68,000 migrant workers” said Mr. Chat Chabprang, Labour Specialist, Practitioner Level, Phuket Provincial Office of Employment.
Mr. Chat reiterated that the key roles of the Department of Employment are to ensure the migrant workers enter the country and work here legally and the import of labour can meet the need of the labour market. Post the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a growing demand of migrant labour. Migrant workers have started to file their applications with the Department of Employment (DoE) to acquire their work permits, visas stamps, and passports. But when the migrant employees want to change to another workplace, hey can notify the registration authorities for the change of their employers to declare their discharge from service and the cessation of their employment. As to the limitations and challenges that impede the migrant workers’ access to jobs, at present, Phuket is in dire need of labour, Thai and migrant workers. Just three months ago, the job opening stood at around 17,000 positions or around 3 positions now. After this, the Department of Employment will organize a job expo during 23-24 June to offer to companies, Thai and migrant workers as well as freelancers.
“As to the constraints on labour recruitment, DoE found obstacles have been related to acquisition of Non-Immigrant Visa “B” for workers from neighboring countries. Is it required that workers from Myanmar have to land only menial jobs or not? Several workers from Myanmar have specialized skills and they can apply for Non-Immigrant Visa “B” to land a different kind of jobs such in Pa Tong. Language literacy is therefore an important factor so is access to the Thai laws. Some have been working here, but are not aware if they are here legally or not even though they have in their hands a complete set of documents. When they are asked for the documents by the authorities, they have no idea about the documents in their possession. This is quite pitiful. They have no idea about what they received and what they shall receive. Meanwhile, the employers can understand the issue well and communication is key” said Mr. Chat Chabprang, Labour Specialist, Practitioner Level, Phuket Provincial Office of Employment.
Mr. Pairat Boonchu, Social Security Specialist said that during the Covid-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022, the Social Security Office has launched programs to help migrant workers including Covid-19 vaccination. The benefit was offered to both Thai and non-Thai workers. Most workers registered with SSO are in construction sector, followed by fishing workers. Many migrant workers have become unemployed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Basically, SSO would pay unemployment benefits due to such force majeure, i.e., when they caught Covid-19, they would get the benefits. But after Covid-19 has been declared an endemic disease, not many migrant workers received the unemployment benefits. The number has gone up only after the Covid-19 pandemic when they suffered from work-related injuries including falling from building, scaffolding injuries, stepping on a nail. We do not have much statistics about the fishing workers since the figures have mostly gone missing.
“There are various benefits being tapped into from child delivery to death, sickness, disability, death, etc. SSO treat workers, Thai or migrant, the same in terms of access to such benefits…Compared with the latest figures, the Department of Employment (DoE) says that there are about 50,000 migrant workers. From my latest checking, there are about 137 workers from Lao in Phuket who are registered with the SSO, 16,274 from Myanmar, 70 from Cambodia, and 4,326 other nationalities, altogether 20,801 migrant workers. This is according to the latest registration in March 2023. They have insured themselves through the Department of Employment (DoE) and they have their proper documents and have been registered by their employers” said Mr. Pairat Boonchu, Social Security Specialist.
As to the SSO, Pairat further said that SSO shall address the issues of certain migrant workers if they were unable to get registered through the Department of Employment (DoE). It is obvious that even with one employee, the employer is required to have the worker registered. From my experience most of the employers who employ only 1-2 migrant employees would not get their employees registered. They would come to but the insurance only after there was some accidence or sickness. An ordinary person who employs one worker from Myanmar would not get the worker registered. They only came to see me when there is any mishap. After our investigation, the employers could be forced to pay a fine. For example, there have been cases of fishing workers not be registered by their employers. After they have died and the inspectors may find this out that there was a case of deceased worker….We may not always identify such cases. What we often encounter is the employers do have their employees registered, but failed to pay contributions to the Find. As a result, we have to seize the assets of the employers. By initially registering the workers, the employers may want to do it legally, but they failed to service their debt. Such cases are only found in construction sector.
Mr. Thanapong Orachorn, Phuket Provincial Office of Labor Welfare and Protection said that please first understand that the Department of Labor Welfare and Protection enforces seven laws altogether. Here, I would like to address two concerned legislations including the Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Act B.E. 2554 and the Labour Protection Act B.E. 2541, both of which are concerned with various benefits. Statistically, between 2021 and 2023, 192 Myanmar employees have applied for various benefits including wage, compensation, termination compensation, special severance pay in lieu of advance notice, OT pay, or minimum wage in 2021. 25 workers from other nationalities have applied for the benefits as well. Altogether, the benefits paid amount to around 17 million baht. The officials have acted according to the law to order the employers make the payment of around 19 million baht. However, after some investigation, we have found the figure was higher than the actual figure based on the evidence given by the parties. In 2022, 41 workers from Myanmar and 21 from other countries have applied for benefits under the labour protection law for around 8.6 million baht. In 2023, 26 workers from Myanmar and seven from other countries have applied for benefits amounting to around 1.4 million baht. The authorities have so far ordered the payment of 1,010,000 baht and are about to order the payment of another 300,000 baht. This shows how much we have instructed the employers to pay. The question is will the migrant workers get to receive such compensation or not? In fact, the employers have within 30 days since being notified to challenge such orders with the Labour Court. If they do not appeal, the inquiry officials have the power to compel the employers to make the payment as instructed.
“Regardless of their nationalities, the workers in Thailand shall receive equal protection similar to their Thai counterparts. It was initially discussed in Phuket that we hire Myanmar workers because they are cheap labour. This is actually not quite true since you are required to pay them the minimum wage not less that the amount required in Thailand …Such idea has become less popular now since the migrant workers are treated equally to their Thai counterparts” said Mr. Thanapong Orachorn, Phuket Provincial Office of Labor Welfare.
Lastly, Thanapong said that there are two challenges including (1) occupational health and safety, and (2) protecting workers from human trafficking, particularly fishing workers. At the moment, the Phuket Provincial Fishery Office and concerned agencies is interviewing around 1,400 migrant workers about their working condition to determine that they have not been subject to human trafficking. We have only completed the interview of 200 workers. It is challenging to make them trust us as an official…The issue of human trafficking is important since the government wants Thailand to be upgraded to Tier 1, since we have stuck there at Tier 2 and they are determined to combat IUU Fishing since 2015.
“It is a challenge to ensure occupational health and safety. A worker may get injured or die from working since they did not use personal safety gear…The employers could be subject to sanctions from occupational health and safety law, quite a hefty fine of 100,000 baht per case, a fine of 100,000 baht as a legal entity, 100,000 baht as a member of board of directors and around 200,000 baht/person when an employees has died. The Workmen’s Compensation Fund is another issue. As of now, the workers want to have more basic information about safety gear in construction or fishing sectors…” said Mr. Thanapong Orachorn, Phuket Provincial Office of Labor Welfare and Protection.
(5) Labour Federation calling out registration of migrant workers for increasing indebtedness and reliance on brokers-high expense-highly complicate procedure set out by various agencies making it not possible for workers to manage it by themselves, civil society proposing ONE-STOP-SERVICE established to prevent workers from becoming undocumented and having to rely on brokers–complicated registration process
Session 4 of the discussion on “Exploring the possibility to seek collaboration from all sectors concerning the protection of migrant workers in Thailand” featured speakers including Mr. Adisorn Kerdmongkhol, Migrant Working Group, Mr. Wichit Dasanthad, President of Phuket Federation of Hotel and Service Labour and Ms. Rasika Channarong, Provincial Labour Office.
Mr. Wichit Dasanthad, President of Phuket Federation of Hotel and Service Labour said that it is urgent and important to address the problems of legal mechanisms which impede the renewals of work permits among migrant workers. It shall warrant collaboration to raise the awareness among Thai and foreign employees. Labour shortage in Phuket has not stemmed from shortage of supplies, but the unmatching between the available skills and the available jobs. Some migrant workers can fill up the gaps for Thai people. Therefore, the issues encountered by the workers can go beyond just minimum wage. It has to be solved through ensuring fair wage to incentivize workers in all sectors. To mobilize for issues concerning migrant workers, apart from advocating among government agencies, there should also be political advocacies as well. Just before the national election in Thailand, one of the political parties that have raised the issues of migrant workers is the Move Forward Party including the recognition of the rights of migrant workers to form their labour union. This is an interesting issue. Anong party, the Thai Social Democratic Party (TSDP) also adopts policies on labour issues. We place our hope in this election in the pro-democracy parties and hope that the next government will make a difference.
“Having to rely on brokers to apply for work permit can increase the costs. The people also suffer, and the increased expense will make them suffer even more. I understand that it would be too complicated for them to apply for the documents by themselves. They would have to go to the government offices thronging the canvas tents in front of the agencies. Since the government and the provincial authorities said migrant workers are important and indispensable, why can’t we make their lives easier to ensure they can act in compliance with the law? If we can do everything on the table, we would be in a better position to drive Phuket’s economy forward” said Mr. Wichit Dasanthad, President of Phuket Federation of Hotel and Service Labour.
Mr. Adisorn Kerdmongkhol, Migrant Working Group’s Coordinator said that it is important to regularize the workers who have been made undocumented. The post-Covid-19 time saw a surge in labour demand. The problem is does the government have the courage to solve the issues through the cabinet? Phuket’s economy is founded largely on service sector. Meanwhile according to the provincial development plan, the Ministry of Public Health aims to develop Phuket into a medical hub to serve medical tourism. The question is for the people who have driven Phuket’s economy forward, will they be entitled to good public health services, too? We have to discuss the issue. There are currently around 20,000 of the total 50,000 migrant workers who are registered with the Social Security. It is therefore a challenge in the future. In addition, there should be an overall management plan in Phuket inclusive of the role of migrant workers. During the caretaker government, whether they will pursue the policy depends on who will become the next government. At the moment, an effort should be made to regularize the undocumented workers to address the registration issues. I find this an issue that has to be addressed by all parties in Phuket. As to the questions for political candidates in Phuket, since the province is still in need of labour supply in various sectors, and it is important to drive the economy based on the existing employment structure, what are your policies and directions on the issue? In addition, to address the complex nature of the registration, a one stop service on registration and recruitment should be provided to streamline the process and address the problems regarding labour registration.
“The city will not be attractive to tourists as long as health risks persist among the residents. What can sell is the kind of tourism which is safe, clean and suitable to all persons. It should start from ensuring that all the people living in Phuket attain a good health including migrant workers” said Adisorn Noochdamrong.
Ms. Rasika Channarong, Provincial Labour Office said that at present, there is a shortage of around 2,000 workers in Phuket, which is a normal shortage. It is important to develop the management plan for Phuket based on sustainable labour management. An effort has been made to push forward the 10 economic pillars while the Ministry of Labour is advocating sustainable solution to labour management between 2023 -2027. There will be a meeting with the Governor on 26 April. But we are lacking the plans on migrant workers, the of issue of which is treated as important and as part of the main mechanisms to drive development in Thailand.
“We are lacking the plans on migrant workers, the of issue of which is treated as important and as part of the main mechanisms to drive development in Thailand. We reiterate that we cannot live without you. It is a critical issue to adopt a policy to ensure migrant workers can continue working in Thailand. We think we can take care of you through the existing mechanisms and can work complimentarily to each other. This is our principle” Ms. Rasika Channarong, Provincial Labour Office.
The three issues highlight the need to mobilize in Phuket on the issues of migrant workers. When problems arise, all parties must meet to discuss. There are still many issues. As to the migrant workers in Phuket, we are still in need of labour supply and businesses are competing with each other to attract the workers of such caliber. This should therefore be treated as an opportunity as well, not just a crisis. What worries us most now is concerned with garbage and other problems stemming from the mobilization in Phuket including the เช่น Ko Sire. There should be a meeting among government agencies, migrant workers and employers. The cabinet resolution should be issued to pave the way for importing more migrant workers. Phuket features a unique context compared to other parts of Thailand. A unique context warrants unique policies and regulations. We must take care of each other and try to prevent the issues concerning garbage. The employers must ensure their workers are not subject to exploitation or suffering. Myanmar is starting to draw their own people back. It was extremely difficult to complete the latest MoU. They want their workers to remain working in their country and China has become involved. The Provincial Labour Office has to look after the migrant workers as sisters and brothers. Given the “5S” work, the Governor places an importance to workers throughout the country and is concerned with how to develop Phuket.
“You know full well how China has dominate in Myanmar. They are there to manage the renting of agricultural land and they are drawing back their own people. We need to be aware of this. It was extremely difficult to complete the latest MoU. They want their workers to remain working in their country and not to come to Thailand anymore. They want their people to develop their own country with backing from their big brothers. This is a constraint and a hot issue” said Ms. Rasika Channarong, Provincial Labour Office.