The Governments of Thailand and Cambodia should increase cooperation to expand the scope of their MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) on labour migration, allowing also in the future the regularization of migrants who are already working in Thailand. This is one of the main conclusion of the study “Assessing Potential Changes in the Migration Patterns of Cambodian Migrants and their Impacts on Thailand and Cambodia”.

It was indeed noted that regularization process has resulted in a high percentage of labour migrants being registered, lowering recruitment time and cost.

The study was conducted by IOM (International Organization for Migration) and Chulalongkorn University’s Asian Centre for Migration (ARCM) to understand potential shifts in migration patterns of Cambodian migrants to Thailand, the impact of that migration and the linkages between these patterns and development in Cambodia.

For this purpose, The Asian Research Center for Migration (ARCM) interviewed 901 migrant workers in six areas of Thailand that records the highest number of such workers. The survey was carried out in September and November 2018 in the provinces of Pathum Thani, Bangkok/Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Sa Kaev, Chonburi, Rayong. In-depth interviews – points out an IOM press release – were also carried out among 122 key stakeholders, including government officials, employers, non-governmental organization staff members.

Seeking employment and improving one’s economic situation were the primary motivations for migrating to Thailand according to the survey.

The respondents came from across Cambodia: from provinces near the Thailand border (Banteay Meanchey, 20%, and Battambang, 15%), from central Cambodia (Kampong Thom, 9%, and Kampong Cham, 10%) and from near the Viet Nam border (Prey Veng, 15%). There were also smaller numbers of migrants from Pursat (4%), Siem Reap (4%), Stung Treng (3%), Kampong Chnang, Kandal, Ouddar Meanchay, Kampot, Kampong Speu and Svay Rieng

Over half of all respondents had children: among these migrants, 61 per cent had all of their children in Cambodia, 23 per cent had their children living in Thailand, and 15 per cent had some children living in both Cambodia and Thailand.

In relation to the migration process, more than half (56%) of the respondents had migrated with the assistance of brokers in Cambodia, Thailand or both countries. Another 24 per cent had migrated with assistance from friends or relatives. Only 12 per cent had come through the formal MOU process and only 8 per cent had migrated on their own.

As a result of the registration process of March 2018, 74 per cent of the respondents migrant workers held some personal identification and a work permit. Only three per cent of the reported interviewed did not have any documentation for residing and working in Thailand.

It should be noted indeed that “the survey was conducted a few months after the deadline for migrants to register with the Ministry of Labour. As the detention of migrants in irregular situations was common at the time – it’s pointed out in a press release – both regular and irregular migrants were often reluctant or unwilling to participate in the survey”.

Anyhow, more-fully documented migrants received higher wages than those who were in Thailand on a day pass and those who were undocumented. Moreover, more than 40 per cent of women migrants and about one quarter of male migrants received less than the minimum wage for the province in which they worked.

The most remunerative sectors for Cambodian migrant workers turn out to be fishing, construction and factory, while the lowest wages are associated with the service sector and trade. Despite the low wages, the mean annual value of remittances sent by respondents was THB 39,312 (over USD 1,200).

Iom and Chulalongkorn University’s Asian Centre for Migration (ARCM) provide also some information on access to banking services, to Education in Thailand, as well as the access to healthcare for Cambodian workers.

Looking at the prospect of returning in the origin Country, nearly three quarters (73%) of the respondents planned to return to Cambodia permanently and the other 27 per cent did not yet have a plan.

The last part of the report encompasses tailored conclusions and recommendations for the respective Governments, as well as for development partners, to create strategies and interventions for a regular and safe migration. In addition to the already mentioned invitation to apply the MOU procedure to migrants who are in Thailand as well as those in Cambodia, adequate pre-departure training should be provided to assist migrants to live and work in Thailand.

It is imperative that the Royal Thai Government enforce its labour laws more strictly to ensure that migrant workers in all provinces and sectors of work receive the minimum wage, ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work.

The Royal Thai Government should expand the types of work open to migrants to include more semi-skilled jobs in sectors facing labour shortages. About remittances, the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia should cooperate with the financial sector to enable remittances to reach migrants’ families safely and with reasonable fees, especially in rural areas.

Finally, training for return migrants on setting up their own businesses and create initiatives for return migrants to increase the productivity of their farms, it should be provided.

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Many of the key findings of the study coincide with the recommendations resulted from the discussion of the 2nd International Conference “Cross border cooperation on Labour Migration and Human Trafficking between Cambodia and Thailand: from policies framework to the implementation”. The event, organized by GVC, was held on April 24-25, 2019 in Siem Reap, in the framework of the projects Mig-Right and Right-to-work. One of the main objective is supporting Cambodian and Thai Authorities for the improvement of the policies and laws to protect Cambodian migrants from any forms of human rights violation.