Uptick in prosecutions against Asian foreign workers in Thailand

Migrant workers, Flickr/The Foreign Photographer

Thailand has seen an uptick in prosecutions of Asian foreign workers for illegal employment in the country, according to a report by the Department of Employment (DoE). The report covered the period from October 2022 to March 2023.

The report revealed that 685 employment venues were prosecuted and a total of 1,550 people prosecuted. The majority of people prosecuted were economic migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos who had entered Thailand without registration. There were also many Indians and Vietnamese nationals prosecuted, Pattaya Mail reported.

The number of Europeans, Americans, and Australians arrested by DoE officers during this period was only around 20. This may have been because the inspection appeared to primarily target illegal work that is popular with Asian migrants. Such work includes selling goods, hairdressing, driving vehicles, and massage. However, the report did not include arrests by immigration police during the six-month period.

The director-general of DoE, Phairoj Chotikasatien, said that foreign workers were subject to changes in regulations in 2017, which listed 40 employment skills strictly reserved for Thais and mandated fines and deportation for foreign defaulters. Fines for businesses that offer employment without authorised permits vary from 10,000 baht to 200,000 baht per worker. Phairoj said there were inspections across Thailand, including in Bangkok, Phuket, Samui, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya.

A Chon Buri immigration spokesperson said that most Europeans working without authorisation were involved in teaching classes or running bars, restaurants, and sports venues. Other areas of concern at seaside resorts were foreign taxi drivers and tour guides. The spokesperson added that immigration staff worked with other agencies, including the Ministry of Labour, but conducted independent investigations as well.

In February, it was reported that many foreigners, particularly Russians, were working illegally in Phuket. Phuket Information Centre Facebook page shared with its followers on February 5, that…

“A lot of foreigners stay and work in Phuket, both legally and illegally. Recently, a group of foreigners started a car rental business. They offered both cars and minibuses and also served tourists as chauffeurs. They steal jobs from Thai people!”

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.