With hundreds of thousands of Cambodians having fled Thailand fearing a crackdown on illegal migrant laborers by the junta, Pattaya-area immigration officials are trying to get the word out that temporary work visas are not hard to obtain.
Construction sites across the region fell silent or ground to a near-standstill after the National Council for Peace and Order promised to strengthen enforcement of labor laws. Rumors about arrests, beatings and even killings of Cambodian laborers caught working illegally fueled a mass exodus that saw more than 200,000 flood across the border.
Foreign laborers who have obtained temporary work visas are back to work at construction sites around Pattaya.
Col. Theerachai Dedkhad, the immigration superintendent in Srakaew, reported that more than 10,000 illegal Cambodian workers had crossed the border in the province in the early part of July.
Saek Wannamaethee, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that rumors of abuse of Cambodians were untrue and there were no plans for deportation of mass numbers of Khmer workers.
He said illegal workers can receive a 60-day temporary work visa simply by having their employer apply. Visas do require drug tests and proof of health coverage, but otherwise just require paperwork. Including health exam and insurance, the total cost for the visa is 1,305 baht.
Registration of illegal workers for visa applications is open through the end of the month.