BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand plans to reopen its borders to workers from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, a government official said on Tuesday, in a bid to ease a labour shortage that is hurting its export and tourism-dependent economy.
Pairote Chotikasathien, from the Ministry of Labor, said the rules relating to vaccination status for the migrant workers, quarantine procedures and COVID-19 testing will be decided on Wednesday.
Thailand’s big exporting industries such as food and rubber production rely heavily on migrant labour. But strict border controls and quarantine rules have virtually halted all labour migration.
Pairote estimated the country needed 420,000 foreign workers at this time, mostly in the construction, manufacturing and seafood industries. Many workers left the country as it battled its worst COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year and have not returned.
Some workers who remained in the country were placed in “bubble and seal” policies under factory and construction quarantine schemes.
Thailand has nearly 2 million confirmed infections and 19,764 deaths, the majority of which came after April when the Delta variant was detected among migrant workers in a construction camp.
(Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)