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Thailand Wants Migrant Workers to Return, But Will They Want to Come Back?

Caged like animals, treated like lepers, migrants wrongly have been blamed for Covid-19's spread.

Burmese migrant workers are confined to dormitories in Samut Sakhon now protected with razor-wire fencing.
Burmese migrant workers are confined to dormitories in Samut Sakhon now protected with razor-wire fencing.

The Labor Ministry is preparing to allow workers from three neighboring countries to return amid a critical labor shortage.

Department of Employment Director-General Pairoj Chotikasathien said a ministry survey showed 424,703 migrant workers are needed to bolster the nation’s workforce.

According to the DoE, businesses need 256,029 Burmese, 130,138 Cambodian and 38,536 Laotian nationals on the payrool. Most of the jobs are in the agriculture, livestock, construction, hospitality services and garment production sectors.

Pairoj said migrant workers can help to steer the business sector in the right direction, now and when the pandemic ends. He added that the DoE is consulting with the Public Health Ministry and other state agencies to provide guidance over resuming its intake of unskilled laborers under the MoU.

The question is will migrants want to return, given how poorly they’ve been treated during this year’s outbreak. Workers have been held behind barbed wire in their crowded barracks, sealed inside workplaces and deprived of food, necessities and even coronavirus tests.

Add to that the pervasive discrimination and racisms shown by Thais during the Covid-19 epidemic who have blamed migrant workers for spreading the coronavirus when, in fact, Thais have been overwhelmingly responsible for the protracted outbreak.