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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Poverty and family debt fuel male migration to Thailand

Poverty and family debt fuel male migration to Thailand

YOUNG Cambodian men are pursuing risky job opportunities in Thailand because of dire economic circumstances at home, and 63 percent cite family debt as an additional factor, according to report findings presented at a conference on regional migration that began on Wednesday.

The findings from the unfinished report, gathered by the NGOs South East Asia Investigation into Human Trafficking (SISHA) and Health Care Centre for Children (HCC), were presented at the International Conference on Mobility Patterns of Cambodian and Other Nationals in the South East Asia Region.

Hour Ngy, Koh Kong provincial coordinator for HCC, said after a presentation on the report that he believed male migration to Thailand was on the rise.

“The number is still increasing, and there are several factors,” he said. “Although they know it is a risky situation, they don’t have many choices because of their situation at home.”

The report draws from interviews with 258 men between October 2008 and July 2009. Of those, 82 percent cited relative poverty within their communities as a motivation for illegally migrating to Thailand.

Louise Rose, programme officer for the Asia Foundation’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons project, told the conference that previous surveys suggest that about 1,000 Cambodians are illegally entering Thailand every year, but she noted that specific research on male migrants is scarce.

She said that most of those surveyed were not trafficked into Thailand. Upon arriving, about 90 percent ended up working on Thai fishing boats.

A report released by Human Rights Watch in February said that Cambodians working on Thai fishing boats were routinely subjected to extortion and abuse, and that they were denied basic legal rights.

In an earlier presentation at the conference, Keo Sam Oeun, a postgraduate student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, accused both the government and NGOs of ignoring problems faced by male migrants and focusing instead on women and children.

“I had difficulty when I called the Ministry of Labour, because every time I called they said there weren’t any male migrants in Cambodia,” he said.

Hem Bunny, director of the ministry’s Employee and Manpower Department, said Wednesday that he could not comment specifically on male migrants, but that the government has worked broadly with NGOs to encourage safe migration.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THARUM BUN

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