BANGKOK - Fearful that Thailand's new labor rules will get them into trouble, tens of thousands of migrant workers are returning to neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, causing hardship to themselves and their Thai employers.
Labor regulations that took effect June 23 could give foreign workers without proper permits up to five years in prison, while their employers could face fines of up to 800,000 baht ($23,500).
Officials and workers' advocates estimate that roughly 30,000 workers have returned home since the rules took effect.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, under pressure from industries employing the migrants, says he'll institute a 120-day extension of the deadline for worker registration.
Thailand has about 2.6 million foreign workers, mostly from its poorer neighbors Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Half are estimated to be working illegally.