Millions of migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos toil in Thailand’s low-skilled sectors, where limited state oversight and unscrupulous employment practices leave many vulnerable to exploitation and modern slavery, activists say.

The South-East Asian nation last year launched an overhaul of the registration process for migrant workers, granting them the same labour rights as local hires, including access to free healthcare, pension contributions and child allowances. In the first phase of the revamp, the government aims to ensure two million legitimate migrant workers are registered afresh – a process that must be carried out by employers but paid for by workers earning as little as 10,000 baht a month.

Visas, work permits and health checks – the conditions of the new agreement – cost a total of about 6,700 baht. However migrants and labour activists said that employers, middlemen and brokers are inflating the cost and saddling workers with fresh debts – trapping many in exploitative workplaces as they struggle to pay off what they owe.