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Fewer migrants return home from abroad as fear wanes

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Cambodian migrants cross the border from Thailand through Banteay Meanchey province in August of last year. FACEBOOK

Fewer migrants return home from abroad as fear wanes

The number of workers returning from Thailand is on the decline, with a total of 1,503 workers remaining in quarantine centres across the six Thailand-bordering provinces as of January 2, according to the figures on migrant workers The Post received from the authorities in those locations.

By the numbers, 14 workers are in the quarantine centre in Koh Kong, 515 in Battambang, 210 in Pailin, 523 in Banteay Meanchey, 238 in Oddar Meanchey and Pursat province has three workers left in quarantine.

Banteay Meanchey provincial administration spokesman Sek Sokhom told The Post on January 3 that the number of workers returning from Thailand has been steadily declining compared to the previous months.

“Now, the average number of workers returning per day is about 100, a big decline from the 300 to 500 returning workers per day back when Covid was exploding in Thailand,” he said.

He added that although Covid-19 cases in Cambodia have declined significantly the use of quarantine for Covid-19 continued to be necessary for migrant workers who are a high-risk group for infections – especially when coming from Thailand – because it prevented community transmission.

Sokhom continued that some Cambodians with passports have gradually returned to work in Thailand through the use of tourist visas, while others had continued to secretly cross via unofficial border corridors illegally.

“In our province, there are four border checkpoints with Thailand that are in operation and some people who work in Thailand have used tourist visas to go over there. If they go through these four checkpoints, their entering Thailand is not illegal, though working while there might be if they lack a permit. But it’s still safer than if they go through the unofficial corridors – then anything they do there is illegal,” he said.

The report from Oddar Meanchey said that on January 2 the number of migrant workers returning from Thailand via the international border crossings in Oddar Meanchey province was 186, while on January 1 there were 195 people, with all of them testing negative for Covid-19.

Chou Bun Eng, Ministry of Interior secretary of state and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said that since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic through the end of 2021, more than 260,000 Cambodian workers have returned from abroad, mostly coming from Thailand.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL), urged both countries to reopen their borders for migrant workers to be able to get jobs more easily.

He said migrant workers had returned home out of fear of Covid in Thailand, but now they all needed work in order to earn a living, most of them were now vaccinated and the Covid-19 situation had greatly improved.

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