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At border, gov’t bill mounts

Children of Cambodian migrant workers stand in a truck at the border town of Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province
Children of Cambodian migrant workers stand in a truck at the border town of Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province over the weekend after being transported across the border from Thailand. Vireak Mai

At border, gov’t bill mounts

The financial burden inflicted by hundreds of thousands of returning Cambodian migrant workers has already reached $5 million in government-mobilised emergency services alone, according to official estimates.

In less than two weeks, nearly 200,000 mostly undocumented Cambodian migrants have spilled through the Thai-Cambodia border, fleeing what they fear is a military-led crackdown on Thailand’s irregular labour force.

The government has already spent roughly $5 million providing the returned workers food, water, medical supplies and free transportation back to their home provinces, Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan said during a visit yesterday to the Poipet international checkpoint, which has seen the vast majority of the exodus.

“The expenditure does not include the 2,000 service providers,” he said. Yan tried to add a positive note to his speech yesterday, telling the workers that they arrived at a good time when some “half a million workers” are needed in Cambodia.

“Please think about taking local work opportunities, which have no risks and are near your homes and in your country,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior sent out a directive to all ministry officials advising them to take extra precautions with returning elderly women, children and the sick, who aid workers on the border said often get pushed aside in lines for the buses by men eager to return home.

In the statement, Dol Koeun, secretary of state at the ministry, also said border patrols need to be extra cautious in ensuring that no workers are coming or going cross the border illegally.

Meanwhile, the opposition party yesterday used the border situation as an opportunity to criticise the ruling Cambodian People’s Party for not installing a long-term reintegration policy.

“This government does not have a plan for all these people because the political platform of the Cambodian People’s Party does not have any clear job creation platform,” said Kem Sokha, acting president of the CNRP.

While offering no solution himself to the shock of excess labour, Sokha asked all opposition lawmakers to join him on a humanitarian trip to the border on Friday.

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