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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thousands of migrants attempt illegal crossing into Thailand

Thousands of migrants attempt illegal crossing into Thailand

Tracey Shelton

Poipet, one of a growing number of border posts through which tens of thousands flow illegally through to Thailand.

More than 76,000 Cambodians attempting to cross illegally into Thailand were returned via the Poipet border crossing in the first half of 2008, about 15,000 fewer than were deported in the same period last year.

But the decline is misleading, said Poipet Deputy Chief of Immigration Police Sao Bunrith.

 “The number of illegal immigrants crossing into Thailand is increasing," Sao Bunrith said. "But now there are more border checkpoints through which to deport them.”

He said on June 11 that it was unclear how many Cambodians were being repatriated through the other checkpoints.

“We have tried to educate [migrants] to work here and not attempt to enter Thailand illegally, but still they try to go to Thailand for work,” he said. “Some of them who were brought back today will attempt to illegally cross back into Thailand tomorrow.”

Convoys of trucks hauling the illegal migrants have made more than 1,000 drop-offs at the Poipet border crossing alone, and the deliveries continue, according to Tim Sareth, deputy chief of the Cambodia-Thailand Relations Office.

More than 1,000 children were among those caught attempting to make the illegal crossing, Sareth said. The bodies of five casualties of traffic accidents along the route were also discovered.

Many Cambodians were being lured to Thailand by unscrupulous middlemen who promised high wages for menial labor, according to Oum Mean, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Labor.

“But it’s not true. They get the same daily wage they would here, and they have to pay a fee to the middleman,” Mean said. “We are trying to educate people to return home because construction projects here are in need of plenty of workers.”



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