Worker shortage hits Pattaya as Myanmar junta blocks emigration

Photo courtesy of Pattaya Mail

Dismayed Pattaya employers are raising the alarm over a sudden surge in job vacancies following the Myanmar junta’s recent move to restrict young people, especially men, from leaving the country.

The junta’s spokesman, Zaw Min Tun, justified the enforcement of Myanmar’s long-standing conscription laws, stating it was crucial for now due to the mass exodus of citizens to neighbouring countries, particularly Thailand.

Pattaya and the eastern seaboard heavily rely on Myanmar workers across various sectors, including factories, agriculture, construction, tourism, and especially fishing. With around 250,000 documented Myanmar workers in Thailand—nearly a quarter of them in Pattaya—the region is now facing a labour shortage crisis.

The actual number of Myanmar workers is believed to be much higher, considering the influx of illegal immigrants who cross the porous border, often with their entire families.

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Mongkol Sukcharoenkana, spokesman for the Thai National Fisheries Association, urged Thai authorities to issue labour permits regardless of whether the applicants possess Myanmar passports or special identification cards from the junta. Roisei Wongsuban, representing a local migrants’ working group, highlighted the severity of the situation.

“Many Pattaya hotels and construction sites are short of workers in what is best described as a labour crunch, so not too many questions are being asked.”

The junta’s intentions remain unclear. While they require more soldiers for the ongoing civil war, they also depend on the foreign currency sent home by overseas workers. On May 1, the junta suspended official permission to work abroad but later indicated that only those aged 23 to 31 would likely be affected.

The status of those already employed in Thailand is ambiguous, as they technically need the junta’s permission to renew contracts under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries.

A spokesman for Thailand’s Department of Employment in Chon Buri province described the situation as still fluid. Reports from Mae Sot, near the Myanmar border, suggest that some passports and permits are still being issued. However, many workers in Thailand are reluctant to return home due to the risk of conscription, reported Pattaya Mail.

With Thailand’s current working-age population at 40.7 million and 44 million jobs to fill, the labour shortage poses a significant threat to the Thai economy.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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