A survey of 10 Cambodian provinces is studying the whereabouts and plans of migrant workers who were recently repatriated from Thailand, fearing crackdowns on foreign workers there after the coup.
During a workshop hosted by Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM) yesterday, Ministry of Interior secretary of state Chou Bun Eng said early indications show many workers are opting to cross back into Thailand illegally, rather than going through legal channels.
“The migrant workers seem to be in a hurry to cross back into Thailand; they are not waiting for the government to prepare documents allowing them to legally work there,” Bun Eng said at the meeting in the capital. “Now the government and [CARAM] are doing a survey of workers who came back to Cambodia to examine their current situation.”
Some 225,000 Cambodian migrants working in Thailand fled the country in June, amid rumours of the junta-led government’s possible intention to clamp down on illegal labour in the country.
For workers who seek employment in Thailand in hopes of earning higher wages, the process of gaining legal access to work there can be a confusing and expensive process, CARAM executive director Ya Navuth said.
He called on the government to make passport offices more accessible to migrant workers.
Several ministries in the government are working to make it easier for these workers to legally return to Thailand, said Ouk Ravuth of the Ministry of Labour.
Ravuth added that legal status in Thailand would prove beneficial to migrants.
“We appeal to workers to register legally before they go back to Thailand,” Ravuth said. “This will help prevent necessary repatriation for them in the future.”
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua suggested the survey can be an opportunity to look at the reasons why migrants insist on working across the border, rather than finding jobs in Cambodia, and the hardships they face to do so.
“We have to study the societal impacts of migrant workers,” Sochua said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN