Laos Won’t Fine Laborers Returning from Thailand

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Lao laborers returning to Laos from Thailand in 2020.
Lao laborers returning to Laos from Thailand in 2020.

While authorities in Laos are encouraging Lao workers in neighboring countries to return home, Thai authorities have said they will continue to penalize undocumented workers.

According to a notice issued by the Department of Immigration under the Ministry of Public Security, Lao laborers who are stuck in Thailand and want to return home should do so by legally crossing international borders.

The notice states that workers returning home who do not have travel documents will not be penalized, but they will be required to comply with the Covid-19 preventive and control measures.

Lao laborers, however, have complained that they have received fines on the Thai side of up to THB 3,000 before being allowed to cross back into Laos.

“We are aware that we first entered Thailand illegally, some of us many years ago, and we have no choice but to pay the fine in order to return home as the Covid-19 outbreak worsens,” one returnee told Laotian Times.

Meanwhile, activists for migrant workers’ rights in Thailand have condemned a decision by the Thai Ministry of Labor this week to halt a program to conduct active Covid-19 testing on 30,000 high-risk migrant workers from Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia in Bangkok.

Nongkhai Immigration Notice
A notice by Nong Khai Immigration Dept issued in May stating that undocumented workers may be fined when returning home.

Lao and Thai authorities recently held talks on labor issues, promising to work together to overcome labor-related concerns and to maintain safe labor mobility.

The Lao said says workers in Thailand should have access to stable employment and be entitled to sound and reasonable welfare policies as Covid-19 spreads, according to Vientiane Times.

Thai authorities have also agreed to collect specific information on migrant workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in Thailand.