Mekong politicians should separate economy from politics

Concerns have been raised by migrant workers that the Thai government will expel Cambodian and Laotian migrant workers.

Although there is no explicit policy as such, the concerns are not groundless, because Thailand did in face expel some 200,000 Cambodian workers in June 2014 after the May 22 military coup. The rights group Adhoc even called the methods by which Cambodians were being expelled as “uncivilized and inhumane.”

If such a nationalist policy should occur, it would hurt both sides’ economies.

Although it might appear that only Cambodian people would be hurt, in fact such a policy would cut off the arms of the Thai economy. Cambodian, Laotian and Myanmar workers are doing menial jobs that Thais don’t want any more as their economy climbs the ladder of development, becoming more skill-based rather than labor-intensive.

Thai politicians should show respect and appreciation to these workers without whom Thai people would not be able to live a better lives and enjoy more prosperity. They need to show respect to those who are supporting their livelihoods and economic bases, instead of stoking economic nationalism to gain political support.

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