Oddar Meanchey provincial governor Pen Kosal said while more than 15,000 migrant workers had returned from Thailand amid the Covid-19 pandemic, no one had illegally returned through the province’s three border checkpoints.
Speaking during a press conference at the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, Kosal said the province had three official border checkpoints with Thailand – O’Smach, Choam and Chubkiri.
The three passages had been closed since March, but after negotiations between the authorities of both countries, O’Smach and Choam have reopened for the exchange of goods.
“In total, 15,554 Cambodian migrants, 7,024 of them women, returned through the borders in Oddar Meanchey province. That’s the number of people entering through O’Smach and Choam,” he said.
He claimed that no Cambodian migrant workers had illegally returned to Thailand via the three checkpoints, but through the agreement, he said Cambodians could enter Thailand for medical treatment if they had proper letters from health professionals.
“No migrant workers have gone back [to Thailand]. Oddar Meanchey province doesn’t have corridors as other provinces do. Our province has only three passages.
“One passage is closed and the other two are only open for the exchange of goods or if a Cambodian needs medical treatment in Thailand and has paperwork to prove it. If they [Cambodians] secretly climb the mountains, they will find mines. No one dares climb the Dangrek mountains,” Kosal said.
Concerning quarantines for migrant workers in the province, Kosal said the situation was under control. Of the 234 test samples from migrant workers, he said all have been negative except for seven which are still being analysed.
Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Srey Naren said he had not seen migrant workers crossing illegally into Thailand of late.
In January and February, he said Cambodian migrant workers had crossed illegally into Thailand to log timber but were sent back by Thai authorities.
“Since Thailand closed its borders, our people have been allowed to return to Cambodia. But returning to Thailand is extremely difficult.
“Exchanging goods is more difficult in Cambodia than in Thailand because Thais can enter our country and buy crops directly from us. But we cannot do so. We have to place orders on goods,” he said.
Naren also expressed concern over border closures, saying if they continued for much longer, it will affect people’s livelihoods because they cannot keep up with daily demands. Income from business along the borderlines has also been lost, he said.
He called on the government to establish a budget package to help people living along the borders.