[Back] Date: Sat, 17 Jan 1998 19:14:44 -0500
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From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: TH,BU: Illegal workers returned (SCMP)
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Illegal workers returned to Burma

By William Barnes,
in South China Morning Post (Internet Edition)
17 January 1998

Bangkok - Nearly 12,000 illegal workers, mostly Burmese, have been ejected since a clampdown on the underground economy started late last year, officials at the National Security Council say.

However, even the hawkish council admits Thailand is going to find it tough to repatriate the estimated one million illegal workers targeted by politicians in a bid to create jobs for newly unemployed Thais.

Of all the once-booming Asian countries vowing to eject foreign workers, Thailand's huge Burmese workforce may represent the most bitter potential problems, observers say.

The police and Army have already pushed hundreds of Burmese nationals back across the border after raids on scores of factories, building sites and homes since late last year.

The sharp economic slowdown is expected to throw several million Thais out of work this year, thrusting the political spotlight on the estimated million Burmese, and others, in the underground economy.

Labour Minister Trairong Suwankhiri vowed this week to deport 300,000 immigrant workers within three months and many more later.

Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai is yet to put his name to any precise target for repatriations.

Mr Trairong is focusing on workers in building sites and factories.

However, the move could be fraught with difficulty.

Deputy council chief Kajadpai Burutpat warned yesterday that prickly relations with traditional rival Burma may rule out any uncomplicated repatriations.

The Burmese dominate a huge underground economy created during the boom years when cheap labour industries attempted to compete with cut-throat regional competition.

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