The rules, which demand compliance by Tuesday and which require some 1.5 million migrants to register with Thai authorities and prove their nationalities, or be kicked out, are adding to recent concerns about overreliance on imported labor in Asia’s wealthier countries.
Other countries in the region, including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, have increasingly drawn on low-cost foreign workers to help them stay competitive with China and India. Malaysian palm-oil plantation owners count heavily on labor from Bangladesh or Nepal to keep wages low. In Thailand, textile manufacturers and fishing fleets often use workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere.
Although precise data on such undocumented workers are unavailable, human-rights groups say they now account for roughly 5% to 10% of Thailand’s work force.
As the number of migrants has grown, host countries have become more worried about backlash from local residents, who fear foreign labor is keeping local wages down. Officials say they also are concerned foreigners could pose security threats or health risks, since some come from countries with high rates of HIV or other diseases.