Tip-Offs Help Authorities Close in on State Officials Linked to People Smuggling

People Smuggling

Authorities are closing in on local state officials implicated in the smuggling of illegal migrant workers into Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday police were verifying the identities of several officials accused of being involved in the smuggling of migrants. The information has been supplied in tip-offs to the government by netizens.

The breakthrough follows Gen Chan-o-cha’s call for people to offer any information they had about state officials and influential people being involved in people smuggling, the activity blamed for causing a surge in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

The cabinet will next week consider a proposal by the Labour Ministry to temporarily allow illegal migrants to be registered in the Thai system and thus made legal workers, a move intended to stamp out the spread of the virus, said the premier.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said a government-appointed committee tasked with managing migrant workers in Thailand had already agreed to the idea.

The minister was speaking after Thursday’s meeting of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) chaired by Gen Chan-o-cha.

The decree authorises the labour minister to consider allowing migrant workers in the country to legally work here temporarily, a decision that requires cabinet approval, said Mr Chomklin.

However, since the matter concerns illegal entry, it also concerns Section 17 of the immigration law and the authority of the interior minister. For this reason, the cabinet will have to discuss all aspects of the registration proposal further.

If it gets the green light, employers will be able to simply submit details of their illegal workers online and apply for them to receive work permits.

A key condition is that employers will have to cover the full cost of COVID-19 tests for each of their migrant workers, the labour minister said.

The Public Health Ministry will determine later as to how much to charge for each test, he added.

Mr Chomklin said he believed employers would be happy to foot the bill in exchange for their workers being granted legal status.

He said he had asked Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda to help inform provincial governors of their need to collect information about illegal migrant workers in their regions.

The Immigration Bureau, meanwhile, revealed that a total of 61 illegal migrants, mostly Myanmar nationals, have been rounded up in crackdowns carried out in Bangkok and its surrounding provinces since Tuesday.

None of them, however, has tested positive for COVID-19, said Pol Col Chiraphong Ruchiradamrongchai, chief investigator of Immigration Division 3 but all are awaiting deportation.

About 26,000 Myanmar illegal migrants have been deported in 2020, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, commissioner of the Immigration Bureau.