GOVERNMENT figures show the number of Cambodians registered as heading abroad for work jumped more than a third in the first six months of this year.
Nhem Kimhuov, an official at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said 4,862 migrant labourers went abroad in the six months to June, compared with 3,561 in the same period last year.
"In the first six months our migrant worker numbers to Malaysia increased 150 percent from 1,181 to 2,955, whereas in Thailand they were down one-third to 812," he said.
The rise in workers to Malaysia was a knock-on from a shortfall in numbers sent at the end of 2008, he said.
"But in the case of Thailand, it definitely decreased because of political unrest and the issue on the border," he said, referring to the dispute at Preah Vihear.
However, he said there is still good cooperation between Thai and Cambodian counterparts in the labour sector, and with their opposite numbers in Malaysia.
The economic crisis and its impact on migrant workers is a concern, said Ya Navuth, director of the NGO Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM).
"When they return home, they often can't get work, as thousands of garment workers are unemployed," he said. "Recent research [by CARAM] shows many women who lost their jobs went to work in the entertainment and sex industries. The government should set up migrant labour offices in those countries to ensure our workers can access information about jobs and protect them when they face abuses."