The Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL) is carrying out an awareness campaign among the public about the potential risks of migrating to find work in Thailand. The organisation warned that many Cambodians were continuing to use the services of brokers to migrate illegally.

CENTRAL programme officer Dy The Hoya said on March 19 that CENTRAL’s Safety Migrant Advisory (SMA) volunteers have been conducting an awareness campaign in several provinces where migrant workers mostly originate from – Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Thom and Battambang.

“The team identified a number of challenges – migrant workers without passports or legal documents are sometimes not paid by their employers, and are at greater risk of labour exploitation or human trafficking,” he added.

He said wider public education was needed as many people continued to make the decision to seek work in Thailand, but were often unaware of their own legal circumstances.

“Their migration is risky. There is a high risk that they will lose their money to fraudulent brokers, or face arrest by the authorities,” he went on.

Based on the on-the-ground research by MSA volunteers, it was found that a large number of Cambodians are still migrating.

“Most of the migrants go through relatives, brokers or on their own. Very, very few go through registered recruitment companies,” said Hoya.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said he was concerned about cases of fraud or brokers who sought to defraud workers seeking to work abroad, saying many were involved in illegal trafficking.

He said most Cambodians migrant workers feel they have no choice but to trust the brokers because they are desperate to find work. In addition, very few have the means to research an agent or company before agreeing to sign up with them.

“The authorities need to strictly enforce legal measures and hunt down anyone involved in illegal recruitment. People should be able to find ways to migrate legally, as there are far less risks, and far more access to social protection,” said Sam Ath.

Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ros Sophany said as long as CENTRAL is working for the benefit of the people of the province, the authorities will support their activities.

She said CENTRALs public awareness campaign is doing important work by letting people know what their rights are and offering them tips to stay safe. It also lets them know who they can contact should problems arise.

“The campaign is not going to guarantee safe migration for everyone, but it is reducing some illegal migration, and helps the authorities to work more effectively, as migrants workers know who to call for help,” she added.

Speaking from Prey Veng province on March 14, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng requested that the public join the authorities in fighting the scourge of human trafficking.

“Cooperating with the relevant authorities is an effective way to protect human rights,” he said.

“The people, authorities and the armed forces must work together to protect peace, political stability and social order. They can do this by something as simple as supporting the implementation of the safe village and commune policy or obeying the traffic laws,” he added.

Last year, CENTRAL recorded 92 cases where undocumented Cambodian migrant workers were detained by Thai authorities at the border. The cases involved 2,121 individuals, over 40 per cent of them women or children.