Some Cambodian migrant workers crossing the border from Thailand for the Khmer New Year holiday claimed they were forced to pay 40,000 riel ($10) to get priority in filling out application forms and having their passports stamped at the Poi Pet International Border Checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province.
Roeun Sareth, a 26-year-old construction worker who has worked in Thailand for seven years, said on Wednesday that while he and many other migrant workers were queuing to fill out documents to cross the border, agents in civilian clothes approached them asking if anybody wanted to expedite the process.
“Other migrants and I spent 350 Thai baht [$10] for the VIP service. With the service, immigration officers at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint were quick to process paperwork and stamp our passports."
“But without it, it would take us two to three days to get through. There were many agents who offered the service,” he said.
Pheng Sopheak, a vendor who recently returned from a shopping trip in Thailand, echoed Sareth’s remarks. She said the agents, who were not clad in police uniforms, stayed at the entrance calling out to migrant workers who wanted to quickly cross the border.
“Some were still asked to stand in line with migrants who didn’t pay for the VIP service and had to wait half a day for border security officers to process paperwork and stamp their passports,” she said.
Through its official Facebook page on March 9, the General Department of Immigration instructed all heads of border checkpoints to carry out their duties properly and offer free services to migrants crossing the border.
“Officers at all border checkpoints must provide convenience for Cambodians and foreigners who cross the border, especially Cambodian migrant workers who return from Thailand for the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday,” said the statement.
Filed a complaint
Hean Kimsoeun, a sociopolitical analyst, on Wednesday, filed a complaint to the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) seeking an investigation into allegations of bribes for quick service at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint.
“I have obtained evidence including a video clip and some documents to prove that officers at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint solicited money from Cambodian migrant workers who returned home for Khmer New Year,” he said.
“Each person paid about 350 baht, or around 40,000 riel, for quick process of paperwork and stamping of passports. I’ve already gathered enough information,” he said.
Khem Chetra, the immigration police bureau chief at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
When The Post reached Keo Vanthorn, deputy director of the General Department of Immigration, for comment on Wednesday, a person who answered his phone said he was busy in a meeting.
ACU president Om Yentieng also could not be reached for comment.
An ACU officer who asked not to be identified only said that Kimsoeun’s complaint was “confidential”.
Sam Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, called on the General Department of Immigration to take more effective measures against solicitation at border checkpoints.
“When I previously organised a workshop on people’s rights, I asked attendees if they were asked to pay [for quick processing of paperwork]. All of them unanimously said yes. Some people were asked to pay 300 baht while others were asked to pay only 100 baht,” he said.