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Visa-Extension Deal to Allow Foreign Workers to Remain in Thailand Through 2021

Migrant workers wait in immigration queues in Samut Sakhon Thailand.
Migrant workers wait in immigration queues in Samut Sakhon.

Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian workers currently in Thailand  will be allowed to remain in the country until the end of 2021 under a new visa-extension scheme.

About 131,000 migrants from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos had been expecting to be forced to repatriate next week. They now will be able to reap the benefits of continued legal status in the kingdom while employed under a labor agreement reached between Thailand and its three neighbors, whose economies depend in part on Thailand’s far more robust economy.

Of the beneficiaries of the visa extension, nearly 73,000 migrant workers are from Myanmar while more than 34,000 others are from Cambodia and over 24,000 from Laos.

The Thai government has decided to relax visa extension rules for these migrant workers to help ease labor shortages in certain sectors, which have been hard hit by the pandemic.

Since early this year Thailand’s borders have been largely sealed to migrant workers, which has meant that hundreds of thousands of low-income people who depend on jobs in Thailand for their livelihoods have been unable to return.

Migrant workers from Myanmar comprise a significant part of Thailand’s labor force in several low-skilled occupations, including construction work, agricultural work and the seafood sector, yet a flare-up of Covid-19 in Myanmar has led Thai authorities to keep the country’s border with its western neighbor closed.

This has resulted in labor shortages in Thailand where several key sectors rely on migrant workers.

As of August last year, some six months before the pandemic began to make itself felt, nearly 2.9 million registered migrant workers were in Thailand, according to the Ministry of Labor.

A longer version of this story was originally published by UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.