THAI authorities are in the process of deporting more than 500 Cambodian beggars rounded up in Bangkok last week, according to a rights group based in Thailand.
The Cambodian migrants were detained by Bangkok police and sent to a detention centre before gradually being repatriated to Cambodia, said Jackie Pollack of the Mekong Migration Network (MMN), a network of 35 civil society organisations in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.
“Some of them have been deported, but not all of them.... I think there’s 40 adults still in the detention centre in Bangkok, and all the children in there,” she said. Pollack was unsure of the total number of children at the centre, though the Bangkok Post reported earlier this week that there were 200 children among a group of 570 people.
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the group would be processed and repatriated in a lawful manner.
“This is in accordance with our immigration laws, and we believe that this is a trafficking issue,” he said, adding: “The emphasis here is against trafficking.”
In an open letter to the Thai government released on Wednesday, however, MMN alleged that the Cambodian group had been detained “without due process” .
“There was no screening process to determine whether the migrants had been forced to work, whether they were debt-bonded labourers or victims of human trafficking…. People who have been trafficked to Thailand have the right to protection under the law and are not to be treated as criminals,” the letter says.
Bith Kimhong, director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department at the Interior Ministry, said Wednesday that Cambodian officials were investigating the issue and had interviewed members of the group, but thus far had found no evidence that any were trafficking victims.
“If we find any proof [of trafficking], we will arrest the perpetrators,” he said.