More than 7,000 workers and at least one alleged broker had been arrested crossing the border illegally into Thailand from Banteay Meanchey province since January 1, officials said yesterday.
The National Police website shows 7,464 people, including 2,291 women and 749 children, were detained by anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police in the first 25 days of the year.
Almost all those detained – 7,327 people – reported having been detained and questioned by Thai police for similar crossings in the past, and 562 had previously been imprisoned in Thailand for more than a month.
This year’s arrests, made up of workers from 24 provinces, have occurred at four border points in the province.
Almost 2,000 were detained at the Poipet border gate, and 4,774 said they had been assisted by brokers.
Many of those detained were seeking work on cassava plantations or potato farms in Thailand.
Ly Chandara, deputy chief of the Banteay Meanchey provincial anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said all but one – an alleged broker – had been released without being fined or charged.
“We did not do anything besides educate them about the risks of crossing the border illegally,” he said.
Heang Pov, 23, from the province’s Malai district, had been accused of being a broker of Cambodian workers seeking illegal passage into Thailand and sent to court for questioning, police said.
Ham Muth, deputy commander of military police at Poipet town, said more than 100 officers monitored the border crossings day and night.
“Ringleaders often lead workers to Thailand at night,” Muth said.
Phat Marady, a provincial staffer for the rights group Licadho, said the majority of Cambodian workers who illegally crossed into Thailand seeking work did so after harvesting their crops.
Unfortunately, many of these workers were often cheated by brokers and “ringleaders”, Marady said.
“We promote, and call for the authorities to prevent and campaign against, these issues,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Khoun Leakhana at firstname.lastname@example.org