Over the past two years since the Covid-19 pandemic began, more than 60 brokers caught trafficking migrant workers to Thailand through illegal crossings in Battambang province’s Sampov Loun and Kamrieng districts have been detained at the provincial prison.
On February 21-22, a group of 182 migrant workers arrived at the two districts after turning themselves in to Thai authorities and expressing their desire to return home.
Commander Mang Si of the 819th battalion stationed on the Cambodia-Thailand border in Kamrieng district said on February 22 that one day prior, they had received 134 migrant workers – including 48 women and 15 children – from the custody of Thai authorities.
The returning migrants were processed through the O’Anlok border checkpoint in Kamrieng district’s Ta Sen commune and 43 of the workers were sent into quarantine in Sampov Loun district because they had not been vaccinated.
He added that the 134 workers that were sent by Thai soldiers through the O’Anlok checkpoint were returning home voluntarily and had not been arrested in Thailand; rather they were just being escorted back through the crossing as a group to simplify processing.
“In this case, our border authorities cooperated closely with the Thai side, who sent them to us after informing us in advance. In general, they came back because they lost their jobs and some of them had been over there for many years and wanted to visit their families,” he said.
Migrant broker activities, he added, have been largely suppressed at the border since late 2020 and there have been far fewer attempts to smuggle workers across after dozens of brokers were arrested and imprisoned.
Separately, Commander Prak Say of the 817th border police battalion stationed on the Cambodian-Thai border in Sampov Loun district told The Post on February 22 that over the past two days, 48 migrant workers including seven women and two children had returned from Thailand through the KM 13 checkpoint in O’Santepheap village of Sampov Loun district.
He added that they were required to quarantine though some had been vaccinated in Thailand because some members of the group tested positive for Covid-19.
“Of the returning workers, some were vaccinated three times, some twice and some just once, but if any are found positive for Covid-19 they must be sent into 14-day quarantine,” he said.
Say agreed that criminal activity related to brokers smuggling migrant workers or other human trafficking offences across the border with Thailand had been greatly reduced by the relative lack of demand for workers in Thailand and crackdowns by Cambodian authorities themselves.