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May 29, 1999 
Special economic zone would ease labour shortage
Temsak Traisophon and Supamart Kasem
Three districts in northern Tak province heavily reliant on immigrant labour
would be declared a special economic zone under a proposal supported by the
House Committee on Economic Affairs.
The government would be asked to allow factories in Mae Sot, Phop Phra and Mae
Ramat districts to continue hiring Burmese workers after the Aug 4 deadline,
panel chairman Tripol Johjit said yesterday. Employers would have to ensure
foreign labour was registered, fairly paid and provided with accommodation and
A one-stop service centre would be set up to monitor employment conditions.
The announcement followed a request from the Tak industrial council.
Council chairman Suchart Visuwan petitioned Interior Minister Sanan
Kachornprasart and Mr Tripol to reverse the policy barring employment of
foreign workers after August 4. "Tak businesses are losing 25 million baht a
day from factories having to close because of the crackdown on foreign
workers," Mr Tripol said. "I have already talked to the industry minister and
the labour minister and they agree with the proposal to declare the area a
special economic zone. "The Industry Ministry will proceed with the proposal,
while the House committee will be a coordinator," he said.
Tak has 64 factories which exported merchandise worth 6.33 billion baht during
the 1998-1999 fiscal year.
This was expected to expand to 100 plants, with exports worth 18.52 billion
baht, in 2000-2001.
Mr Tripol said an inquiry would determine who ordered last week's arrest of
more than 6,000 illegal foreign workers at garment factories in the four
districts. All relevant government agencies had denied issuing the order.
Deputy immigration chief Pol Maj-Gen Charnwut Watcharapuk, who directed the
crackdown, would probably be questioned, he said.
A police source said Mae Sot police chief Pol Col Suthira Poonnabutr was
transferred to an inactive post at the provincial police headquarters three
days after the arrests, for allegedly not co-operating with the arresting
officers. The assistant chief of Tak's employment office Praphan Wisitchinda

rejected news reports that officials had demanded 600,000 baht a month from
factory owners or they would arrest a total of 20,000 illegal employees.
Pol Maj Chatri Heabkham of the Mae Sot immigration office denied
allegations he
had been taking bribes from the entrepreneurs.
He said Mae Sot immigration officers arrested and repatriated 39,232 illegal
Burmese workers last year and sent 9,130 others back home between January and
April this year. Classifeds


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Last Modified: Sat, May 29, 1999
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