Lao workers employed illegally in Thailand are scared that the upcoming population census survey may catch them out if the surveyors discover that they are working here without proper documentation.
After a recent media campaign announcing the upcoming survey, many people are afraid they may get into trouble with authorities back home for working overseas without proper permission after surveyors count them as absent for the survey.
"Many of them are actually a bit worried because they're afraid the population surveyors will count them as illegal workers in Thailand," deputy director general of the Department of Social Statistics Thirakha Chanthalanouvong said.
"They are thinking this themselves because we will not go to catch them. I just aim to count the number of families and their members in order to update national statistics," Thirakha pointed out.
The surveyors will not note the statistics from the census at the village offices, but will knock on each door to write down the number of residents actually present in the houses.
Workers here won't be counted
The survey will not count those who are living overseas or are outside their home province. Those working abroad will only be counted if they have returned home at least once in the last six months, while those working in other provinces will be counted as a resident of that province instead.
Thailand has become a popular destination for Laotian workers as the wages are higher and the culture and languages are similar. In 2012-13 around 9,700 migrant workers were made legal in Thailand.
From October 2011 to September 2012, more than 8,100 Lao workers moved to Thailand to work legally. It is estimated that the total number of Lao nationals working in Thailand, either with or without correct documentation, is more than 100,000.
"We will collect the number of illegal workers if they return to their houses periodically" she added.
The Department of Social Statistics has started conducting a public awareness campaign in order to encourage people not to run from the census surveyors.
The Laos Statistics Bureau has confirmed it shall survey the population via a national census to be conducted across the country over seven days at a projected cost of US$7.2 million (S$9.3 million). Census surveyors will proceed to count the population as of March 1, 2015.
"The government has approved about 50 per cent of the funding for the population survey," she said.
The remaining 50 per cent will come from the Swiss government, United Nations Population Fund, World Bank, Chinese government and UNICEF.
Officially the Lao population is currently estimated at 6.4 million people, but given that the last census was undertaken back in 2005 accurate figures will only be known after the results of the new census are made public.