BANGKOK (AFP): Thailand pledged Monday to crack down on overseas singers and musicians as part of a wider plan to cut the number of illegal migrant workers here by up to 30 percent, a senior official said. While there were some 200 mostly Filipino singers, musicians and artists working legally in hotels and bars in Thailand, many more had entered on three-month tourist visas, Jeerasak Sokhonthachart, a deputy director general at Thailand’s Labour and Social Welfare Ministry told AFP. “We have actually issued only about 200 work permits for this category, but there are a lot of them (foreign entertainers), and they take jobs away from Thais,” he said. “The aim is to reduce the number of illegal migrant workers by 20-30 percent. The first phase will be to clamp down on foreign singers and entertainers who are working on three-month tourist visas,” Jeerasak said. He said overseas entertainers were taking home about 100 million baht (2.2 million dollars) each year. “These figure were calculated on the minimum salary they earn, which is between 30,000 (680 dollars) to more than 100,000 baht (2,200 dollars) a month,” Jeerasak said. He said officials from the labour ministry had already begun to make impromptu visa checks at various entertainment venues in cooperation with immigration police. Hotel owners seeking permission to hire overseas singers and musicians, 85 percent of whom are Filipino, would be asked to explain why a Thai could not fit the bill, Jeerasak said. With a population of some 500,000 illegal migrant labourers in Thailand, mostly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, it was not immediately clear why the authorities had decided to focus on [an insignificant number of] Filipino musicians.
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