Cambodia and Thailand are continuing to work together on a programme to collect data on Cambodian migrant workers present in Thailand, according to a senior Ministry of Interior official.
Chou Bun Eng, ministry secretary of state and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said she was concerned that the number of illegal Cambodian immigrants in Thailand would likely increase, although currently the number is trending downwards due to a lack of work in Thailand caused by the pandemic-stricken economy.
“Regarding the figures, right now we are concentrating on gathering data because we were in a closed border situation as neighbouring countries and neither side wants people moving in and out of their country illegally ... Everything is still under discussion and we need to work together to gather clear data,” she said.
Citing data from the Thai side, Bun Eng noted that the illegal entry by Cambodians into Thailand to work on a temporary basis has decreased, but the number of illegal immigrants may increase at some point as formerly legal residents of Thailand who are from Cambodia continue to live there illegally after their visas expire.
“Even though they were legitimate previously, that legitimacy may have expired after two years. But we still need to gather and analyse the data,” she said.
According to Bun Eng, migration has not increased during the Covid-19 outbreak but has rather sharply decreased, with nearly 300,000 migrants having returned home and most of them have yet to go back to Thailand.
“Right now there are very few people who are crossing illegally from Cambodia into Thailand, because they won’t be accepted for employment and will be sent back home anyway. So the number of illegal Cambodian immigrants there is less than one million people at present,” she said.
Khun Tharo, programme manager at the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL),
said it would be a good idea for the two countries to work together on a new census of migrant workers.
Tharo said the figures used in the past for migrant workers were often inconsistent and inaccurate, at least as far as the statistics about Cambodian workers living in Thailand were concerned.
“I think this is a good thing for us to get precise numbers and the actual statistics about Cambodian workers in various sectors including those who are working and living in Thailand,” he said.
Tharo said the work of gathering the data would be complicated and would involve the collection of information from sources that will require cooperation from various partners, especially on the Thai side, in order to facilitate a complete and accurate census there.