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Thai raids capturing mostly Cambodians

A RECENT crackdown on migrant workers in Thailand has targeted Cambodians more than any other group, according to statistics provided by a Bangkok-based human rights organisation.

Between June 16 and last Friday, Thai authorities arrested and detained 1,105 illegal Cambodian migrant workers, according to a summary report provided by the Human Rights and Development Foundation’s Migrant Justice Programme. The crackdown was approved in a June 2 order signed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

This number is barely higher than the 1,103 migrant workers from Myanmar who have been arrested and detained, despite the fact that official statistics indicate that workers from Myanmar account for 80 percent of the total migrant population in Thailand.

MJP director Andy Hall said Sunday that the arrest statistics were “surprising”.

“The fact that more Cambodians have been arrested than Burmese is definitely strange,” he said.

“Official statistics indicate that 80 percent are from Burma, 10 percent are from Laos and 10 percent are from Cambodia.” A total of 301 Laotian workers have been arrested and detained.

The fact that more cambodians have been definitely strange.

Hall noted, though, that most arrests are being conducted in places where Cambodians are heavily concentrated.
“Quite a few Cambodians are in the south of Thailand, and the vast majority are in the east on the Thai-Cambodian border,” he said. “In Bangkok, there are about 400,000 migrants, and 330,000 of them are Burmese. There’s about 20,000 Cambodians in Bangkok.”

In one of the most recent raids, 111 workers, all of them Cambodian, were rounded up on June 21-22 in the southern Thai province of Songkhla, according to the summary report.

Supat Guukhun, deputy director general of the employment office at the Thai Ministry of Labour, said Sunday that he did not have statistics detailing the number of migrant workers caught up in the crackdown, and declined to comment on the specific methods being used by law enforcement.

The June 2 government order alarmed rights workers in large part because it made reference to a “special centre to suppress, arrest and prosecute workers who are working underground”. Previously, most cases of Cambodian migrants caught working illegally resulted in simple deportations.

Last week, however, Supat said that workers found to be illegal would still be deported to their home countries, where they could begin a process of nationality-verification created earlier this year. Under that process, workers are to submit documents to their home governments to secure new work permits in Thailand.

Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said on Sunday that he had no information on the arrests in Thailand, but said he believed any arrested migrants would be sent back to Cambodia.

“Normally, when illegal migrant workers are arrested and detained by Thai police, the Cambodian embassy contacts the Thai authorities to send them home,” he said, and added that a memorandum of understanding exists between the two countries calling for the deportation of migrant workers.



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