Trouble in Paradise: The Effects of Immigration on Small Island Communities in Thailand

Main Article Content

Elizabeth J. Kolbe


Immigration is a richly discussed topic in human rights, especially in Asia, however much of the focus is on the immigrants themselves and the conditions faced in the host country. Studies on the impacts of migration (internal and international) on local communities and labor markets yield mixed results. Some scholars (Foged and Peri, 2014; Hall, 2011; Cholewinski and Taran, 2010) remark on the enefits that host countries and counities receie fro irant laor in that it fills laor aret aps helps oost loal copetitieness for the country, and leads to upward mobility in employment for local workers. Others (Abdul-Rahman, et al., 2013; Pholiphirul, 2011; Orrenius and Zavodny, 2005) highlight the negative impacts of migration on the wages of local workers, the ability of local workers to find lucratie eployent as ell as the possile effects of the dependence of countries on migrant work. This paper will discuss the effects of immigration on small island communities in Thailand as related to the author’s master’s thesis. The unique context of small island communities allows for a closer look at the effects that immigration has on a work force due to the fact that other options for employment are not abundant. Unlike communities on the main land that may have access to other employment options, islanders must make the decision to migrate themselves
if they wish to seek work in other sectors due to the limited industry
on small islands. By analyzing the context of immigration on small
island communities that have limited opportunities for upward
mobility in employment, reduced access to other labor sectors, and a heavy dependency on tourism development, this paper explores if and how immigration affects the local labor forces and host communities of small island communities in Thailand. 

Article Details

How to Cite
Kolbe, E. J. (2018). Trouble in Paradise: The Effects of Immigration on Small Island Communities in Thailand. Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies, 1(2), 33–62. Retrieved from
Academic Articles


ASEAN Secretariat. (2008). ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint.
Jakarta: ASEAN.

Abdul-Rahman, H., Wang, C., Wood, L. C., and Low, S.F. (2013).
Negative impact induced by foreign workers: Evidence in
Malaysian construction sector. Habitat International.
36(2012), pp. 433-443.

Borjas, G. (2004). Increasing the Supply of Labor Through Immigra-
tion: Measuring the Impact on Native-born Workers. Back-
grounder. Center for Immigration Studies, pp. 1-12.

Borjas, G. (2003). The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping:
Re-examining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor
Market. Quarterly Journal of Economics, pp. 1335-1374.

Breakey, N. (2005). Tourism Destination Development – Beyond
Butler. (Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation). University of

Chassambouli, A. and T. Palivos. (2013) The impact of immigration
on the employment and wages of native workers. Journal of
Macroeconomics 38, pp. 19-34.

Cholewinski, R. and Taran, P. (2010). Migration, Governance and
Human Rights: Contemporary Dilemmas In The Era of
Globalization. Refugee Survey Quarterly. Vol. 28, No. 4.

De Haas, H. (2010). Migration and development: a theoretical
perspective. International Migration Review. Vol. 44, pp. 1-34.

Dodds, R. (2010). Koh Phi Phi: Moving Towards or Away from
Sustainability? Asia ?acific ?ournal of ?ouris? ?esearch.
Vol. 15. No. 3, pp. 251-265.

Foged, M. and Peri, G. (2013). Immigrants and Native Workers:
New Analysis Using Longitudinal Employer-Employee
Data. [Working Paper 19315]. National Bureau of Economic
Research, Inc.

Hall, A. (2011). Migration and Thailand: Policy, Perspectives and
Challenges. in IOM Thailand. Thailand Migration Report
2011: Migration for development in Thailand. Bangkok:
IOM Thailand.

Honey, M. and Gilpin, R. (2009). Tourism in the Developing World:
Promoting Peace and Reducing Poverty. [Special Report].
Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace.

Horn, J., Simkin, J., Saarinen, N., Koivisto, L., Kaukonen, M.,
Sylvander, N., Dons, K. and Langner, A. (2006). Effects of
the tsunami disaster on society, economy and environment
in Krabi Province with special emphasis on Phi Phi Islands.
[Student Report: Dir. Prof. F. Siegert]. Ludwig-Maximilians
Universitat, Faculty of Biology, Department II, Geo-Bio
Center, Munich.

IOM Thailand. (2011). Thailand Migration Report 2011: Migration
for development in Thailand. Bangkok: IOM Thailand.

Joppe, M. (2012). Migrant worker: Challenges and opportunities in
addressing tourism labour shortages. Tourism Management.
Vol. 33, pp. 662-671.

King, R. (2012). Theories and Typologies of Migration: An Overview
and a Primer [Working Paper 3/12]. Malmo, Sweden: Malmo
University Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and

Kulkolkarn, K. and T. Pottipiti. (2009). Immigration and Native
Wages: An S-curve Relationship. Thammasat Economic
Journal. Vol. 27. No. 4, pp. 22-35.

Massey, D. S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouauci, A., Pellegrino, A., and
Taylor, J. E. (1994). An Evaluation of International Migration
Theory: The North American Case. Population and Develop-
ment Review. Vol. 20. No. 4, pp. 699-751.

Orrenius, P. and M. Zavodny. (2005). Does immigration affect wages?
A look at occupational-level effects. Labour Economics 14,
pp. 757-773.

Peri, G. (2014). Do immigrant workers depress the wages of native
Workers? IZA: World of Labor 20, pp. 14-42.

Pholphirul, P. (2012a). Labour Migration and the Economic Stability
in Thailand. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs.
Vol. 31. No. 3, pp. 59-83.

Pholphirul, P. (2012b). Immigration, Job Vacancies, and Employment
Dynamics: Evidence from Thai Manufacturers. [Working
Paper 52]. Bangkok: East Asian Development Network.

Pholiphirul, P. (2011) Migration and the Economy. in IOM Thailand.
Thailand Migration Report 2011: Migration for development
in Thailand. Bangkok: IOM Thailand.

Pongponrat, K. (2015). Domestic Labor Migration for Local Tourism
Development: From ISAN to Samui, Southern of Thailand.
International Journal of Social Science and Humanity.
Vol. 5. No. 9, pp. 773-779.

Roundtable on Human Rights in Tourism. (2013). Human Rights in
Tourism: An Implementation Guideline for Tour Operators.
[Organizational Website]. Available at:> [Accessed: 10 May 2015].

Rontos, K., Kitrinou, E., Lagos, D., and Diakomihalis, M. (2012).
Islands and Tourism Development: A Viewpoint of Tourism
Stakeholders of Lesvos Island. in Vision for Global Tourism
Industry. In (Ed.) Kasinoglu, M. in Creating and Sustaining
Competitive Strategies. InTech Publishing: www.intechopen.
com, pp. 461-478.

Sanganet, N. (2004) Labour Rights of Registered Migrant Workers
From Burma in Thailand. (Master’s Thesis). Mahidol
University: Thailand.

Shakeela, A., Ruhanen, L., and Breakey, N. (2011). The role of
employment in the sustainable development paradigm – the
local tourism labour market in Small Island Developing
States. Journal of Human Resources in Hospitality and
Tourism. Vol. 10. Issue. 4, pp. 331-353.

Soontayatron, S. (2014). Resident’s Perceptions Towards Sociocultural
Impacts Induced by Internal Migration. Asia Pacific
Journal of Tourism Research, pp. 1-11.

Thailand. (2011). A Joint Submission on Migrant Workers and Their
Families in Thailand for the 12th Session of the Universal
Periodic Review. October 2011. Bangkok.

United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
United Nations: Geneva.

United Nations. (1966). International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights. United Nations: Geneva.

UNEP and UNWTO. (2005). Making Tourism More Sustainable:
A Guide for Policy Makers. United Nations: Geneva.

Vasuprasat, P. (2008). Inter-State Cooperation on Labour Migration:
Lessons learned from MOUs between Thailand and neigh-
boring countries. [Working Paper 16]. Bangkok: ILO Asian
Regional Programme on Governance of Labour Migration.

Wattana Kuljarus, A. and Coxhead, I. (2008). Is tourism-based
development good for the poor? A general equilibrium analy-
sis for Thailand. Journal of Policy Modeling 30, pp. 929-955.