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IOM: Cambodian migrants in Thailand relatively poor

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Cambodian workers cross into Thailand at the Doung International Checkpoint in Battambang province's Kamrieng district. Heng Chivoan

IOM: Cambodian migrants in Thailand relatively poor

A study released on Friday by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University has said that the majority of Cambodian migrants in Thailand were “relatively poor”, with many depending on jobs paying less than the country’s minimum wage.

The study was carried out by IOM and Chulalongkorn’s Asean Research Centre for Migration (ARCM) which surveyed over 900 Cambodian migrant workers in six Thai provinces.

Researchers also interviewed some 122 key stakeholders, including government officials, employers and NGO staff using quantitative and qualitative methods.

An IOM press release sent to The Post on Sunday said: “Assessing Potential Changes in the Migration Patterns of Cambodian Migrants and their Impacts on Thailand and Cambodia investigates the situation of an estimated 650,000 Cambodians workers in Thailand and is among the most comprehensive research studies ever conducted on this poorly understood group.”

The report said most Cambodian migrants in Thailand were poor before they migrated, choosing to leave because of better job opportunities and higher wages across the border.

But the majority now work in relatively low-wage jobs concentrated in labour-intensive economic sectors including agriculture, construction, fishing and manufacturing, it said.

While 97 per cent of Cambodian migrants reported that their working conditions were “good” or “satisfactory”, the study found that one-third of those surveyed received less than the minimum wage of the Thai provinces in which they worked.

Despite their low wages, Cambodian migrants had remittance payments averaging 39,312 baht ($1,228) per year and interviewees said that remittances were crucial in maintaining or improving the living conditions of their families back in Cambodia.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour said the movement of labour is a feature of globalisation and regional integration, with both countries receiving benefits from it.

“For Cambodia, we also get benefits when our workers receive higher wages than those who work locally. They also have an opportunity to develop professional skills,” Sour said.

However, in January this year, the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator expressed concern that some Cambodian migrants working in Thailand are not enrolled in public health insurance schemes and that their children are unable to attend school.

Moeun Tola, the executive director of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, told The Post in response to the report that based on the most recent estimates, there are about 1.7 to two million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand, with 20 per cent of those undocumented.

He said undocumented workers were vulnerable and often cheated by Thai bosses. They work for several months, Tola said, but in the end, they do not receive their salary and sometimes bosses even call the Thai authorities to arrest them.

Tola said he was worried about fishing boat workers and some in the construction sector, as they were forced to take illegal drugs in order to have the energy to work, and they do not receive their salaries.

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