Beaches full of foreign laborers a harbinger for AEC

Friday, 16 May 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 20 By  Urasin Khantaraphan & Surasak Huasoon

A sign of things to come could be found on Pattaya-area beaches on Labor Day, where large numbers of Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian laborers could be found in the umbrella chairs.

Jomtien Beach sea-rescue officer Wanlop Bunchu said the foreign workers are a common site on holidays as the 2015 start of the ASEAN Economic Community nears. Under AEC rules, labor markets in all the Association of South East Asians member nations will be liberalized to allow greater cross-border employment.

ASEAN citizens relax on National Labor Day at Jomtien Beach.ASEAN citizens relax on National Labor Day at Jomtien Beach.

Wanlop said he sees the foreign laborers as hard workers with perseverance and a willingness to work cheaply. Thais will find them strong competition in the new AEC marketplace, he said.

In addition to greater integration of economies and transportation systems, the AEC will bring more cultural diversity to Thailand, pressuring Thais to do better in learning English. It will also have impacts on tourism, trade, and financial collaboration.

Thais also fear the AEC will erode the country’s sovereignty, as the government prioritizes benefits from the common market. They also worry a greater number of foreigners will decrease the country’s stability, more than its color-coded political factions have already done.

Proponents, however, say the greater internationalization of the country will be good for the job market.

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