The military on August 8 started transferring over 10,000 Cambodian migrant workers who have returned from Thailand to quarantine centres in their home provinces in order to free up space in the seven Thai-border provinces for additional returning migrants due to the strain on available resources there.

The move came after Prime Minister Hun Sen on August 6 ordered all provincial governors – especially those of provinces bordering Thailand – to free up room at their quarantine facilities by moving migrant workers to continue quarantine in their individual home provinces.

In a telephone interview with The Post on August 8, Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said many migrant workers have been transferred to their respective home provinces in the past, but now the transfers were taking place at a larger scale with all migrant workers who are at the quarantine centres along the borders being moved to facilities closer to their hometowns.

“For now, those who arrived earlier and were placed at quarantine sites along the borders for over a week now have to be moved out and sent to centres in different provinces,” he said.

He said that currently there are more than 10,000 people in the affected quarantine centres. The military is using more than 200 trucks to transfer them all and if necessary more trucks can be dispatched.

An NGO working on labour rights said the influx of migrant workers returning from Thailand is due to the outbreak of the Delta variant there, which forced the Thai authorities to shut down workplaces and impose lockdowns on many provinces.

Hull Sam On, the commander of Brigade 99 who is in charge of the fleet of trucks transporting the migrants, told The Post on August 8 that the military has been busy transporting thousands of workers already but there are still many remaining at the border quarantine centres.

“We have not summed up the total number. I just know that a large number of workers have already been transferred out,” he said.

Kampong Thom provincial governor Sok Lou said his province had readied itself to welcome the migrant workers returning from Thailand, just as the government had instructed.

“The [national leadership] will open the borders for the migrants to return and this requires each province to set up quarantine facilities in order to welcome those from the borders home. The preparations are going on from the provincial down to the commune levels.

“If any of the workers had contact with those positive for Covid-19 – especially Delta – we will house them separately. And we must continue to follow all health measures,” he said.

He explained that those who have been in quarantine centres due to their contact with non-Delta-infected patients will be allowed to leave the quarantine centres and continue to quarantine at home, but their home quarantines must be placed under strict surveillance by authorities at the local level.

Many returning migrant workers have already tested positive for Covid-19, including the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Between July 29 and August 4, at least 54 of the 245 migrant workers who returned to Cambodia from Thailand through the Boeung Trakuon border crossing in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrov district tested positive for the virus and 14 of them had the Delta variant, border police chief Van Daran said on August 5.