There are now concerns that the migrant crisis in the Andaman Sea may worsen with the ASEAN Economic Community, a trade bloc comprising 10 Southeast Asian countries is launched this year.
The trade bloc offers relaxed labour movement and this could be a major problem, warns Thailand's vice-chairman of Board of Trade Dr Jingjai Hanchanlash at an economic leadership forum in Bangkok on 30 June.
"The major problem would be the free movement of labour. This is going to be a big problem for Thailand and other ASEAN nations," Jingjai said, noting the on-going migrant crisis in the Andaman Sea where thousands of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis are trafficked into some Southeast Asian countries.
Jingjai questioned the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) preparedness for the formation of its new trade bloc, which will see ASEAN turn into a single market, ChannelNewsAsia reported.
The ASEAN Economic Community will allow its members to enjoy the free movement of goods, services and investments, as well as capital and skilled labour.
"When we start the AEC next year, I don't think the problem will only be for Thailand but also the nine other countries because we're not used to this kind of free movement. We already have immigrant labour in the country, and they're from our ASEAN friends. So, how are we going to regulate those movements?"
The TV channel said that the latest UNHCR's Irregular Maritime Movements in Southeast Asia report indicates that around 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have been victims of people trafficking between January and March this year, nearly double the number over the same period last year.
The refugee agency believes that around 300 people have died at sea in the first quarter of 2015.