Anti-foreigner sentiment runs high at local chamber meeting
PHUKET: Just when foreigners in Phuket were beginning to regain confidence in Thailand as a place in which to invest, a Member of Parliament has once again clouded the skies by suggesting a massive rise in the fees for an initial work permit, from the current 300 baht to as much as 300,000 baht. The astonishing announcement was made today at a packed meeting convened by the Phuket Chamber of Commerce. Khon Kaen MP Premsak Pearyura, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Labor, said that 300 baht was a very small amount for a foreigner to pay, especially if converted into US dollars or Euros. “The government should charge more than this to stop foreigners grabbing jobs from Thais. “The [initial] work permit fee should bring in more revenue for Thailand. It should be 30,000 or 300,000 baht.” He also criticized the new qualification that allows a company to get one work permit for every 2 million baht of paid-up capital. “Two million baht is a small amount. The government should consult the public about whether the figure should be raised, and by how much. “Most of the foreigners are small investors who take work from Thais. We should have big investors who don’t negatively affect Thais,” said MP Premsak. His views were met with overwhelming support from the 150 people at the meeting, drawn from memberships in the Chamber of Commerce; the Phuket Tourism Association; the Thai Hotels Association, Southern Chapter; the Phuket Guide Association and the Phuket Chapter of the Federation of Thai Industries. A press release swiftly presented by the Chamber after the meeting also stated opposition by the “Phuket private sector” to the qualification that allows foreigners to get work permits on the strength of having paid 18,000 baht in income tax in the previous year. “This is too low. It does not add value to the economy,” the release stated. It also criticized the new rule that work permits must be issued within seven days to foreigners who qualify. “This is not long enough to check the foreigner comprehensively. The result of this is that it is easier for foreigners who damage Thai culture, and who want to grab profit and build a power base, to get work permits.” MP Premsak said, “We will see Thai unemployment soaring, like in Argentina. “I don’t want to see this happen to Thai people,” he added, turning to Department of Employment Deputy Director-General Songsak Tantayothin sitting next to him on the podium. “Don’t open Thailand too wide for foreign workers; that would mean the end of Thailand.” K. Songsak replied that he was grateful for this opportunity to hear people’s opinions, which he would relay to the Ministry. “If there are problems we can make adjustments. “Not all foreigners are evil. There are many who support us and do good things. We should accept these good things from them.”
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