BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Under pressure from domestic councils representing engineers, architects and accountants, Thailand's Labour Ministry will review a recommendation that the country open up skilled labour markets to engineers, architects and accountants from other countries as required under an Asean agreement signed in 2001.
Labour Minister Adul Saengsingkaew said the country's Asean commitment is conditional upon compliance with domestic regulations governing each of the three professions.
Thailand's Council of Engineers, the Architects Council, and the Federation of Accounting Professions have voiced opposition to allowing increased access to the domestic job market to skilled workers from other Asean countries.
All three professional groupings on Friday (June 1) submitted their arguments against the move to the Labour Ministry.
General Adul said all three bodies have argued that there was no shortage of these skilled workers in Thailand with new graduates joining the labour market every year.
However, he said the country is committed under an Asean agreement signed in 2001 to open up these skilled labour markets to nationals of other Asean countries. In principle, he said, Thai professionals were protected by the government, but the Asean framework was also beneficial in terms of workers' mobility and new skills which could be learned from other countries.
According to the Federation of Accounting Professions, Thai accountants would be disadvantaged if the domestic market is opened up to foreigners who will take over high-income supervisory jobs while leaving low-wage jobs to locals.
Prasert Wangratanapranee, vice chairman of the federation, said Thailand currently has about 10,000 auditors and another 60,000 professional accountants - more than enough to cover the total number of companies registered in Thailand that are required to use their professional services.
The federation has also asked the government to continue protecting accounting professions since there is no domestic shortage of personnel.
Anek Siripanich of the Council of Engineers said each of the professional bodies must be involved in the screening process for foreign nationals to work in Thailand so that they could be properly regulated.
Amorn Pimarnmas, secretary-general of the Council of Engineers, said the government should not freely allow foreign civil engineers to work in the country because there were potential issues around domestic public safety.
Regarding Asean's Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA), Amorn said appropriate conditions and criteria must be in place to qualify foreign engineers to work in the country.
Foreign engineers should be required to pass examinations to get Thai licences before they can work here, while the Council of Engineers must be involved from the outset to ensure that foreigners are properly regulated, he said.
Anurak Tossarat, director-general of the Department of Employment, said all foreign skilled workers need to apply for licences from Thai professional bodies before they can work there.
The Labour Ministry has gathered input from all stakeholders to prepare the drafting of rules and regulations which will be issued by the ministry on July 1.
He said there should be no worries since all three professional bodies would be involved in the process of opening up the domestic skilled-labour markets under the Asean framework. All foreign nationals are subject to conditions and criteria set by Thai professional groupings to ensure that local workers are not negatively affected.