Police in Banteay Meanchey province have arrested nearly 100 Cambodians who were attempting to cross the border illegally to seek work in Thailand. The authorities require workers returning to Thailand to pass through international border checkpoints and complete the appropriate paperwork.

Provincial police chief Sithi Loh has issued orders to prevent all illegal cross-border crimes, be it economic crime, drug offence or people smuggling.

On the afternoon of April 23, Suong Sao, Commander of the 815th Border Police Battalion, accompanied by his deputy commander Meas Meng Huang, conducted an operation – in collaboration with the Boeung Beng commune police and the Malai district Military Police – intercepted 95 Cambodians who intended to cross the border illegally.

The arrests took place at the border checkpoint in Lvea village.

Sao said that of the workers, 39 were women and 11 were children. They came from 10 different provinces – 21 from Banteay Meanchey; 29 from Siem Reap; 13 from Battambang; five from Oddar Meanchey; two from Kampong Thom; eight from Kampot; 10 from Prey Veng; three each from Takeo and Svay Rieng; and one from Tbong Khmum.

He said that after the arrests, authorities handed them over to the Malai district police for further action.

Malai district police chief Ben Sam Ath confirmed that police reprimanded the would-be migrant workers and made them sign letters acknowledging their guilt and promising not to repeat their offence. They were then allowed to return to their hometowns.

Provincial police are searching for the brokers who intended to guide the workers across the border.

Deputy provincial governor Ngor Mengchruon said: “We have worked hard to coordinate with the Thai labour ministry so that Cambodians can enter through international checkpoints and have their passports stamped and officially recognised by Cambodia and Thailand.”

“We do not allow them to enter and leave through the illegal corridors, which are not official checkpoints, because they are required to enter legally. This applies to workers, but not yet to tourists,” he said.

He said the province does not allow access to the corridor, and law enforcement forces continued to tighten the border and search for brokers.

A worker from Banteay Meanchey – who returned from Thailand before the Khmer New Year – told The Post on condition of anonymity that he did not have the documents needed to legally return to Thailand, so he was waiting for the two governments to fully open the border.

“In Thailand I work picking cassava and farming, but it requires a passport to return at this time. If I wanted to go back, I would have to pass through the corridor and pay a guide 8,000 Thai baht [$230]. I have decided to stay in Cambodia for now,” he said.

In Battambang province, police chief Sat Kimsan has also ordered the deployment of security forces along the Cambodian-Thai border to catch people crossing the border and to hunt for the brokers who bring workers in and out illegally along the border.

On April 24, Battambang police launched eight patrols by their own officers – along with elements of the armed forces – along the Thai border. The patrols had the desired effect, as no illegal activity was noted.

Kimsan told The Post that he had not yet received a summary report from the patrol leaders.

Working in Thailand is not without risk. At least two Cambodian workers were killed – and 12 others seriously injured – when a truck carrying Cambodian workers met with a traffic accident in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province on April 23, according to the National Police, citing an unnamed Thai newspaper.