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Illegal Phuket migrant workers get five-month reprieve

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Illegal Phuket migrant workers get five-month reprieve | The Thaiger

PHUKET: More than 20,000 unregistered migrant workers in Phuket now have until mid-June to register with the government, thanks to a Cabinet resolution earlier this month extending the deadline by five months.

The extension gives employers time to obtain two-year work permits for unregistered alien workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia, said Phuket Provincial Employment Office Chief Noppadol Ployudee.

Workers whose permits were set to expire on January 20 or February 28 now have until June 14 to extend them, but their employers need to request the new permits and submit documents to begin their employees national verification process by April 12.

Any workers who fail to complete the verification process by June 14 will not be allowed to work after that date, he said.

As an added incentive, alien workers who apply for permits and complete the verification process before June 15 will be eligible for 500-baht visas to re-enter the country, Mr Noppadol said.

After the deadline, the visa fee will return to the normal rate of 2,000 baht, he said.

Mr Noppadol explained the new deadline to employers at a meeting attended by about 60 people at the Phuket Merlin Hotel on Tuesday.

Topics covered at the meeting included other issues affecting employers hiring low-wage foreign workers, such as the social security services registered workers would be eligible to receive.

Attendees were told there are 10,700 employers in Phuket with a total of 62,183 alien workers in their employ. These break down as follows:

– 38,287 Holders of permits who have completed the verification process;

– 859 Holders of permits under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Thailand and their home countries;

– 2,479 Holders of existing permits who have yet to complete the verification process;

– 20,588 New applicants who must complete the verification process by June 14.

Mr Noppadol said the Thai government is now in discussions with Laos and Cambodia that would allow their nationals to work in Thailand under an MOU agreement, doing away with the need for national verification.

However, the date when formal talks on the issue would take place had yet to be announced, he said.

Mr Noppadol said there are now 72 companies in the country registered with the Ministry of Labor to act as agents to help the employers complete the complicated process of legalizing alien workers.

In addition, the Burmese government has set up verification centers in five more provinces: Chiang Mai, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Surat Thani and Bangkok.

In addition to the original three located in Ranong, Tak and Chiang Rai, this brings the national network to eight, he said.

Nationwide, more than a million workers from the three countries must complete verification by the June 14 deadline.

In Phuket, the vast majority of migrant workers are Burmese or people of other ethnicities whose homelands are controlled by the Burmese junta, including many ethnic Mons.

Many unregistered workers fear that providing data to the Myanmar government would lead to persecution of family members back home or other injustices.

Estimates of the number of Burmese workers living in Phuket have ranged as high as 200,000.

A report in the independent Democratic Voice of Burma last month cited a migrant advocacy group claims that the verification and work permit scheme backed by both the Thai and Burmese governments has done little to improve the lives of those who enrolled.

The report quoted Sein Htay, group coordinator of the Human Rights and Development Foundation, as saying that of the 700,000 workers registered so far, only 50,000 enjoyed the same welfare benefits as their Thai counterparts.

Under Thai law, the employer must cover 5% of the worker’s social security fund, but Sein Htay said that many employers were reluctant to pay the extra money.

“The rest have no labor privileges whatsoever,” he said.

“When using the previous migrant ID cards, they had been entitled to the 30 baht healthcare scheme introduced under former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, but the registration process effectively canceled this privilege…

“In a way, they have become like the illegal migrant workers. Now they have to cover their own medical expenses and such,” the report quoted Sein Htay as charging.

“The current issue we are facing is that employers are refusing to take responsibility for their workers and denying them compensation [when injured at work]. And the workers can’t afford to sue their employers as court cases may take months or even years and there’s no guarantee that they would win the lawsuit,” he said.

— Atchaa Khamlo



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Bangkok

Co-working space – not just for start-ups

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Co-working space – not just for start-ups | The Thaiger

PHOTO: HUBBA-TO co-working space in Bangkok

by Thanchanok Phobut | Senior Coordinator, CBRE Thailand

CBRE, an international property consultancy company, reveals that co-working space seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days. There was a time when no-one knew what the term “serviced office” meant or why someone would want such an option. But today, you can’t open a business publication without seeing an article about co-working. Most people think of co-working spaces as being a thriving hub of young latte-sipping, technology entrepreneurs, coming up with the next big idea that will make them multi-millionaires.

While there is an element of truth to this image, the end-goal for many co-working space operators is to change the way that companies, not just start-ups, source their office space. They want companies to pay for office space as a service rather than follow the traditional route of signing a lease, fitting out their own space, having an office manager maintain the premises and hiring their own employees for reception and administrative duties.

Co-working office operators usually offer companies their own private space. It is most common to be offered an office based on the size you will need to fit in a set number of desks. For example, if your company has four employees, your package offer will include a furnished closed office with four desks, 4 chairs and optional telecommunications equipment for four people (internet service, phone number and a telephone handset).

There is usually a common kitchen area and spaces to meet and mingle. Think of it like a five-star hotel, you’re not sharing a room, but you are getting a high level of service and amenities on the premises.

You usually have a short-term commitment, not signing a lease for years. The best deal is usually for a year or more, but you can lease your office for as short as one month. Starting and ending your relationship with an operator is most often quick and easy. Since the office is already outfitted and reception services provided, getting to work is much quicker than when you need to design your new space yourself or hire your own support staff.

“Competition in the space is red hot. As more and more offices pop up, the fight to achieve 100% occupancy is fierce. When shopping for your space, be sure to consider more than just price, as the services and reputation of your provider are just as important.

“If you do your homework, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of co-working space, such as unreturned deposits, unexpectedly thin walls between units or fees for things like coffee and copying that you didn’t expect. The great news is, changing providers is much easier than with traditional space,” states Mr. Nithipat Tongpun, Head of Advisory & Transaction Services – Office, CBRE Thailand.

According to a recent CBRE report on the New York City office market:

  • While traditional long-term leases are the preferred model for business and the foundation of the commercial office market, the rapid growth of third-party flexible space operators provides occupiers with a wide variety of options for leasing office space. Since 2013, when the expansion of third-party flexible space began to gain significant traction, the sector has averaged an annual growth rate of 22 percent.
  • There are strong indicators of user demand for the services of the third-party space providers. In fact, 75 percent of corporate occupiers anticipate including co-working or flexible space in their occupancy portfolio over the next three years.
  • Smaller users also continue to be an important part of the target market; as the flexible space footprint has grown in Manhattan, the amount of traditional leasing among tenants under 5,000 sq. ft. has dropped off by 42 percent between 2013 and year-end 2017, suggesting that these users are migrating to flexible space solutions.

In Bangkok, four large co-working space operators are opening in multiple locations. JustCo, Spaces, The Great Room and WeWork leased a combined total of 25,000 square metres of space in some of Bangkok’s best office buildings last year and they are still growing.

“I recently met Yvan Maillard, general manager of The Great Room‘s Singapore operation and he said that, in Singapore, 30% of his clients are late stage start-ups, 30 % are private investment family offices and 30% are mainstream corporates. In the case of corporates, they often lease co-working space as a stopgap before finding a larger permanent office for their expanding team,” said Mr. James Pitchon, Head of Research and Consulting, CBRE Thailand.

It is not only the way companies source their office space that is changing. Even those companies who continue to lease office space directly are changing the way that they use the space – having your own office or even your own desk is out of fashion – agile working is all the rage.

Mr. Nihipat added, “Companies are providing employees with a daily choice of environments from quiet space to a layout that enables teams to collaborate. Employees are expected to move around the office, depending on their tasks. The objective is to create a workspace that fulfills the employees’ needs in a high-quality environment, while minimizing the number of individual desks needed, effectively putting more people to work in less space.”

Globally and in Bangkok, the office market will continue to evolve and while traditional leases are yet to be seen as a thing of the past, CBRE expects more companies to provide agile working environments. CBRE also expects to see significant growth in the amount of co-working spaces provided by third party suppliers.

“This will mean an increase in the demand for high quality buildings with flexible, column free floor plates, technically advanced air conditioning and temperature control, as well as sufficient lift capacity to deal with higher rates of occupation density.

Many of the new generation of buildings currently under construction or being planned in Bangkok will have these features and we won’t be surprised to see more and more co-working spaces open their doors as companies weigh the real advantages of this option versus traditional space.

Co-working space - not just for start-ups | News by The Thaiger

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Business

Thailand’s property market surges with Chinese confidence remaining high

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Thailand’s property market surges with Chinese confidence remaining high | The Thaiger

Chinese investors are still spending big in Thailand’s property market. The country’s ‘teflon’ tourist reputation and uncertain national election outcomes are doing little subdue investor enthusiasm.

Two coups in a decade have done little to cool enthusiasm in Thai property. Tourists from Asia’s top economy continue to recognise Thailand as a top spot for holidays, and investment.

According to data Chinese real estate portal Juwai.com, Thailand remains a popular country when it comes to inquiries from potential real estate buyers. In 2018 the Thai market was the fourth most popular property investment market for Chinese buyers, as the Thai market climbed up from the sixth spot just two years before.

Thailand’s economy has been hurtling ahead since the 2014 military coup, reaching GDP growth each year in excess of 3% and, in 2017, averaged at nearly 4%. The World Bank is predicting growth to slow in 2019, mainly due to weaker global growth, Chinese/US trade wars and the fallout from Brexit.

Sansiri, one of Thailand’s biggest developers, set up an international business unit in 2014 after noting the interest from foreign buyers. Nanmanas Jiwattanakul, the company’s assistant executive VP of international business development, says that Chinese buyers make up 70%of Sansiri’s international sales.

“Foreign buyers have not been deterred by the country’s political limbo over the last five years as the Thai economy, business processes and policies have showed consistency and resilience despite numerous government changes.”

“And Thai property prices have roughly doubled in the last decade, so investors see the country as a good place to grow their wealth.”

Thailand was #4 for Chinese property investment in 2018 in the world, according to Juwai.com. With $2.3 billion coming in from Chinese sources the Land of Smiles ranks behind the big three – US ($30 billion), Hong Kong ($16 billion) and Australia ($14 billion.)

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Business

Americans are flocking to Asia. Why?

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Americans are flocking to Asia. Why? | The Thaiger

Asia is sexy. From K-Pop sensation BTS topping the Billboard charts to “Crazy Rich Asians” owning the summer box office in the US, Americans can’t get enough of Asian film, music, and of course, noodles.

“It’s all a sign of the Asianisation of the world”, reports CNN.

“Asia has the world’s lowest taxes. Despite having some of the world’s largest economies such as China, Japan, and India, tax revenues are just one-fifth of GDP compared to one-half in Europe.”

The article measures the success of the Asian Tiger and its swift growth as a major economic driver, outstripping the economies of the rest of world but without Brexit, Donald Trump and America’s ballooning debt.

‘Want sunny weather, lower street crime, and affordable food and rent? HSBC’s Expat Monitor ranks Asian cities from Tokyo and Taipei to Singapore and Sydney as offering the best mix of quality of life and dynamic professional environments.’

Easy budget travel, new exotic experiences and taste temptations for bored American palettes, a burgeoning start-up vulture and a relative ease of business and taxation structures make Asia tempting for a growing number of businesses looking to expand, retirees and travellers.

There’s a new crop of thriving megacities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon are being hailed as the “next tigers.”

Read the rest of the CNN article HERE.

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