More than 1,100 job seekers who were stopped from travelling overseas due to having violated labour laws set Korea as their first choice, followed by Malaysia, Bahrain, Russia and Qatar, Employment Department chief Anurak Tossarat said yesterday (Jan 4).
Many of them were lured by job placement companies which were accused of not following proper employment procedures set by the government.
Last year the Thai ambassador to South Korea, Saran Charoensuwan, revealed the number of illegal Thai workers in South Korea had doubled in the previous three years as they were attracted by high salaries which can amount to B30,000 a month.
Those workers were willing to risk arrest as the punishment is not considered that severe, officials said. In most cases of this kind they are sent back to Thailand and blacklisted.
Mr Saran said there are about 100,000 Thais in South Korea and more than half of them are believed to be working illegally, mainly on farms.
According to the Department of Special Investigation, many Thai women have also been forced into prostitution in the northeast Asian nation.
Late last year South Korean authorities raided a brothel there and rescued many Thai women who had fallen victim to a sex racket. The case involved 10 Thai and Korean suspects.
According to an initial investigation, gang members used social media to lure the victims into travelling to South Korea. They offered them jobs as traditional Thai masseuses and promised they would receive a high salary, welfare benefits and accommodation in return.
The women claimed they believed the gang’s promises but ended up being forced into the flesh trade. They were reportedly detained and constantly monitored by the racketeers.
At a recent meeting on human trafficking illegal labour, Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo stressed the need to step up crackdowns on recruitment companies which lure people into working abroad.
The ministry is working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Royal Thai Police, job placement companies and local communities by establishing a centre to prevent and suppress illegal overseas employment in all Thai provinces, Mr Anurak said.
The authorities will not give any violators leniency, Mr Anurak said.
In fiscal 2017, his department punished up to 45 companies by holding and cancelling their work licences, he said. Authorities are also prosecuting four companies for criminal wrongdoing.
It has also helped 575 of 580 workers who said they paid fees but found no work placements waiting for them abroad.
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