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Thais detain ‘large number’

Migrant workers stand in a transport truck as they are returned to Cambodia by Thai border police at the Poipet border
Migrant workers stand in a transport truck as they are returned to Cambodia by Thai border police at the Poipet border in June. Hong Menea

Thais detain ‘large number’

A large group of Cambodian migrants were rounded up and detained in a Bangkok prison at the end of May, where many still remain, Thai officials told the Post yesterday.

Separate unconfirmed reports that at least 130 Cambodians had been in detention for more than a month emerged about a week ago.

The Thai Foreign Ministry yesterday declined to confirm a specific figure but said a “very large number” of Cambodians had been arrested.

Kobboon Sangmanee, a first secretary at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Information, said many Cambodian migrants held at Bangkok Remand Prison have already been deported, while some remain incarcerated, awaiting deportation.

“The number now is not even close to what it was before,” he said.

Third secretary Namrin Anukul said the migrants were “charged with illegal entry”, a claim disputed by other sources who said some migrants were charged with using expired work permits and others had not been charged at all.

Cambodian and other migrants are frequently detained briefly in Thailand as a result of labour law offences before being deported. Since a mass exodus of Cambodian workers from Thailand last month, migrants crossing illegally have been caught and expelled on a daily basis.

According to sources who declined to be named, Cambodians who have entered Thailand illegally can be detained for an “investigative period” of up to 48 days without being charged.

But while this often happens to small groups of migrants, large numbers being held for so long are more unusual, they added.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he was still awaiting confirmation on the number of Cambodians being held at the prison yesterday.

“I still have no information. The embassy in Bangkok is still searching for it,” he said.

Relevant officials within the embassy couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

One source with knowledge of the matter said the prisoners are expected to be released by Wednesday, exactly 48 days since May 30, the date many were allegedly detained.

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