Last year Thai authorities sent 97,000 illegal migrant workers back to Cambodia, mostly through Banteay Meanchey province, according to a Ministry of Interior report.
Moeun Tola, the executive director of labour rights group Central, said yesterday that there are thousands of illegal and legal migrant workers returning every year through the border gates located in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Oddar Meanchey and Pailin provinces.
There are many reasons which have made migrant workers return to Cambodia last year and early this year, Tola added.
They are returning due to the closures of several factories in Thailand, he said.
“They no longer have employment when the factories closed, they can’t live there without an income because the cost of living is higher in Thailand,” Tola noted.
The Covid-19 outbreak in Thailand was another reason, as the infection rate was much higher than Cambodia, making people more sensitive to the situation in Thailand, Tola said.
“They left Thailand through the border crossings in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Pailin, because they were worried about their health and safety,” he said.
According to Tola, there are over two million migrant workers in Thailand, of which 20% are illegal and therefore, the Thai authorities have sent them back home.
“There is a high number of Cambodian migrant workers who have bemoaned the lack of opportunities for work in Cambodia. This is an area the Cambodian government needs to address. They should be thinking more about this issue,” said Tola.
Cambodian workers have many challenging issues, such as access to healthcare, language and discrimination in Thailand, especially the illegal workers. They don’t have health insurance or support from their Thai employers, Tola added.
Provincial administration spokesman Sek Sokhom said there has been an influx of Cambodian workers returning from Thailand through Banteay Meanchey border crossings earlier this year.
“I am not sure about the reason, but it could be for Khmer New Year because normally, people would return home during this season,” said Sokhom.
The Banteay Meanchey provincial authority has been monitoring illegal workers who use the Banteay Meanchey border crossings, Sokhom added.
“We are not perfect on tracking illegal workers using the border crossings, but we have been following the recommendation by Interior Minister Sar Kheng to crack down on this issue,” said Sokhom.
Kheng said recently that the government has also made efforts to achieve positive results, in particular, to increase measures to control the presence of foreigners, the management of immigration, research, investigation and suppression of crimes crossing the country.
Kheng added that while Cambodian authorities were focusing on fighting against Covid-19 and addressing last year’s floods, foreign criminals took the opportunity to expand their online crimes, such as illegal gambling and deceiving foreign workers to work illegally in Cambodia.
Last year, the ministry and the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) implemented a joint campaign to fight against human, labour and sex trafficking and especially illegal gambling, he added.
The NCCT has strived to work with all parties to combat human trafficking, illegal migrant workers and online scams across the country and at the borders with neighbouring countries, the government will continue to prevent all kinds of human trafficking, he said.
He calls on the national and international public, foreign missions in Cambodia and the competent authorities of countries to continue to cooperate in providing information related to human trafficking and other transnational crimes to prevent and crack down in a timely and effective manner.
Source: Khmer Times