The number of migrant workers crossing the Cambodian-Thai border for the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday has dropped significantly compared to previous years, as the current Covid-19 situations in the two countries remain precarious, officials said.
In Battambang province, deputy governor Soeurm Bunrith said that less than 90 workers are returning each day.
“During the same period last year, over 1,000 workers returned [a day]. But this year, the number is less. It is very different from previous years,” he said on April 8, noting that many workers might have returned due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Thailand early this year.
“Workers don’t return for the celebration because they know authorities will quarantine them for 14 days,” he said, adding that 1,596 Cambodian migrant workers are currently in quarantine in Battambang.
In Banteay Meanchey province, deputy provincial governor Ros Sophany said the number of returning workers before the New Year holiday was also much lower compared to previous years.
“The number has decreased with only 50 to 100 migrant workers returning a day. In previous years, more than 100 migrant workers a day returned during the New Year,” she said.
Sophany said that since February, over 30,000 workers had returned through Banteay Meanchey province. Now, however, none of them are allowed to return as the Thai government has banned entry during the current outbreak.
In Oddar Meanchey province, deputy provincial governor Dy Rado said the number of returning migrant workers had significantly decreased compared to the previous years, when between 300 and 500 returned per day.
“Since the beginning of April, between 50 and 100 workers have returned each day. It is very different from previous years,” he said.
Pailin and Preah Vihear provinces are experiencing similar drops in people crossing the border. Pailin has 10 to 20 workers crossing a day and on some days there are no people. In Preah Vihear the numbers are less with only four or five returning each day.
“In Pailin, not many return for the New Year because some have jobs and some want to protect themselves from Covid-19. So, they don’t move back and forth,” provincial governor Ban Sreymom said.
Preah Vihear provincial health department director Kong Lo said the reason some workers are not returning is they have heeded Prime Minster Hun Sen’s message that urged them not to do so.
In deterring migrant workers from returning to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Hun Sen and health minister Mam Bun Heng have warned that returnees who show Covid-19 symptoms will be quarantined upon their return at the border while those in good health will be isolated in their community.