Crackdown on Burmese labor imminent

PHUKET: In what it describes as an effort to protect Phuket’s image, the island’s work permit committee has announced that officials will soon begin arresting illegal Burmese laborers living “in a campsite on a mountain”. Vice-Governor Manit Wattanasen, chairman of the committee, said that a request has also been sent to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare to reduce the number of Burmese laborers in Phuket and to limit their work to just three categories: fisheries, construction and rubber plantations. The work permit committee met on Monday, when it was decided to crack down on illegal Burmese labor in Phuket, especially in the Kata, Karon, and Patong areas, said V/Gov Manit. He said that Immigration and Labor Department officials have been arresting between 30 and 40 Burmese a day, but that those arrested keep returning to work illegally in Phuket after being sent back to Myanmar. V/Gov Manit said that there are 30 large campsites and many small campsites on the island. In the large mountain campsite now scheduled for a raid, there are at least 400-500 legal Burmese and an unknown number of illegal workers. The workers often hold parties there, said V/Gov Manit, and the last time officials went up to the campsite to make arrests, they interrupted a wedding. The workers have even set up a movie room at the site, he added. The reasons cited for initiating the crackdown are protection of Phuket’s image as a tourist destination, and concerns over tourists’ safety and the lack of hygiene in the camps.

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