More than 200 undocumented workers were briefly detained over the weekend in three busts as they sought to cross into Thailand for jobs.
The workers were detained by Poipet police after they were caught near the border town’s casino late on Friday night.
But, said Poipet police chief Om Sophal, the brokers behind the mass illegal border crossing escaped the raid, due to the overwhelming crowd.
“They were lured by brokers to gather at a meeting place near the casino’s side… but they were detained immediately.
They were all going to jobs in Thailand after the Pchum Ben festival finished,” he said.
The workers, most of whom were from Banteay Meanchey, were given information on illegal migration and an educational message before being released, he said.
If they had been caught just kilometres over the other side of the border, the consequences would have been more dire, said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at Phnom Penh’s Community Legal Education Centre.
“If the Thai authorities applied their laws, they could be arrested and detained. Cambodian police can stop and educate them on legal migration (but) then let them go back home.”
Despite the education, however, many would attempt the journey again, he said.
In Kampong Chhang, deputy police chief Prak Saony said his officers detained 50 men, women and teenagers waiting for a bus to take them across the border into Thailand and questioned them about the local brokers whom they paid to arrange jobs.
And a 31-year-old Battambang man was arrested in a raid that snared 13 undocumented workers in the province late on Saturday evening.
According to Tola, any brokers caught in the weekend raids were more than likely “small fish” in the vast network of human trafficking.
To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at firstname.lastname@example.org