Thai nationals will be permitted to fly to the Middle East to start working in Saudi Arabia as the two countries’ chilly relations continue to improve.
Agreements signed by Thailand’s cabinet yesterday between the Thai labor ministry and the Saudi human resources ministry are the latest evidence of rekindling ties a month after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha conducted a diplomatic visit to Riyadh.
The agreements include clauses to protect the welfare and rights of migrant Thai workers while they are in Saudi Arabia. According to 2020 statistics, over 450,000 Thais worked overseas, either officially or illegally.
Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a Thai government official, stated that both parties pledged to safeguard genuine hiring processes and hold job brokers in both countries accountable for any misconduct.
That means the Thai labor ministry will have to vet the personnel before they are employed, ensuring they have the necessary training and no criminal history. It will also be in charge of transportation to and from Saudi Arabia.
The decision comes on the heels of the first direct Saudi flight in 32 years, which took place on Monday.
Prayuth’s visit broke a three-decade stalemate in inter-realm ties over stolen jewels and a heinous murder spree that began in 1989.
Thai government allows nationals to start working in Saudi Arabia
A high-level Thai government team was scheduled to visit in Saudi Arabia later this month to ink a labor cooperation deal, according to a senior official on Friday.
The first wave of Thai workers was slated to enter the Saudi labor market in May.
Before ties between the two nations deteriorated in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia was a popular destination for Thai expats, with over 300,000 of them living and working there.
Following Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-visit cha’s to Riyadh on the request of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in late January, the two kingdoms’ ties were reestablished. It was the first senior leadership encounter between the two kingdoms in more than three decades.
Since then, the Thai government has authorized two draft agreements on legal labor recruiting for Saudi Arabia, and a Saudi delegation landed in Bangkok earlier this week to finalize the contract with representatives from the Thai Ministry of Labor.
“Thailand’s minister of labor has accepted an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s minister of human resources and social development to visit and sign the agreement on March 28,” Surachai Chaitrakulthong, Thai Labor Minister Suchart Chomklin’s assistant, told the media.
“If we sign the agreement on March 28, we can start the selection process in April and possibly the first group will be able to go to Saudi Arabia in May,” he added.
Ministry personnel will tour workplaces and firms that can employ Thai labor when the deal is inked.
More than 1,000 job seekers have already applied for their dream of working in Saudi Arabia as Thai officials assessed the credentials and talents of potential employees against existing employment possibilities, Chaitrakulthong said.
“The ministry is interviewing them as we are seeking high-skilled laborers to be working in Saudi Arabia,” said the government.
He went on to say that the favorite industries were engineering and construction, particularly welding, as well as healthcare.
According to the ministry’s records, there were only about 1,350 Thai employees in Saudi Arabia at the time, mostly as technicians and home staff.