ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
February 12, 2008
A two-year study shows that the 200,000 Thais working legally and illegally in Malaysia are sending home Bt300 million to Bt400 million a month.
Assistant Professor Chidchanok Rahimmula from the Pattani-based Prince of Songkhla University, said almost 150,000 of them were working in Thai restaurants, or popularly known as tom yam restaurants, with large concentration in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
She said Thai Muslims from three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat were more keen to work in about 5,000 Thai restaurants in Malaysia, while Thais from other parts of the country like the northeast worked as rubber tappers in the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia.
"From my discussions with Malaysian government officials, Thai workers are generally considered good immigrant workers as they don't indulge in crime. Due to the similar language, culture and religion, they face few problems," she said when contacted in Pattani.
The study, funded by the Thailand Research Fund, also shows that most Thais are working as illegals due to the high cost of obtaining work permits, estimated at Bt30,000 per person.
"This makes them frustrated and think twice about getting work permits for their new workers," she added.
The study shows that restaurant owners send back between Bt20,000 and Bt100,000 a month while the general workers like dishwashers and waitresses, who earn about Bt5,000 a month, remit home between Bt1,000 and Bt2,000. The cooks in such restaurants are paid between Bt15,000 and Bt20,000 a month.
Chidchanok said while a number of Thais had settled down in Malaysia, many preferred to come home but held back due to the lack of job opprtunities in the restive southern provinces.
"If they can, they want to settle down in southern Thailand. But because of the lack of jobs, they want to continue working in Malaysia and send money to their families to build a house or send the children to school," she said.
Chidchanok was also informed by the association that the Malaysian government had been kind to Thai workers and understood the situation in southern Thailand which forced them to work across the border.
"But the authorities there also told them the need for Thai workers to come and work legally. Malaysia also wants to give more opportunities to workers from Myanmar and Cambodia," she said.
In the study, she recommended that the Malaysian government reduce the cost of getting a work permit by changing the category of Thai workers from skilled labour to unskilled labour.
More than 2,900 people have died in the southern provinces due to the ongoing violence where suspected separatists are seeking independence from Bangkok.