Thailand has ended its amnesty period for unregistered foreign workers, meaning that those who remain in the country without registration are at risk of deportation.

The government introduced new laws in July, which include fines for employers of up to THB 800,000 (around US$23,500) if they hire unregistered foreign workers without permits.

But an amnesty period, which ended on 7 August, was also granted for organisations to make sure all their staff were registered.

The initial announcement of the law last month caused widespread panic among foreign workers, with thousands from neighbouring Myanmar and Cambodia hastily leaving the country. The private sector was said to be facing serious staffing shortages.

“It was reported online that over 400,000 workers from Myanmar have been registered [but] we will make an official announcement after we receive the list,” U Aung Ko Than, from the Myanmarese embassy in Bangkok, told Burma News International.

In total, it is believed that around 772,000 thousand foreign workers of all nationalities were registered during the amnesty.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently published a report claiming “access to justice is often out of reach for migrant workers in south east Asia.”

It looked into the obstacles faced by migrant workers who wish to report abuses of their labour rights and found that, for the most part, they lacked access to “fair, efficient and accessible means to resolve grievances when they occur,” according to Ben Harkins, technical officer for the ILO Triangle in ASEAN programme.

The ILO’s study suggested progress had been made but “workers continue to face major obstacles to lodging and resolving complaints in all of the locations studied.”

The most common problems were: return or provision of documents in Myanmar and Cambodia; return to country of origin in Malaysia; compensation or reimbursement in Vietnam and Thailand; and a lack of clarity about what recourse is available in Laos.

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