Newly-appointed Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou instructed law enforcement officers along the border to increase their vigilance and work to prevent illegal border crossing into Thailand.
Large numbers of Cambodians are lured across the border into Thailand each year by employment brokers who facilitate their passage and set them up with a job on the other side.
Battambang provincial Department of Information director Sous Sopheak, who also serves as the provincial administration’s spokesman, told The Post on October 18 that during a meeting on October 14, Lou urged all relevant authorities to eliminate the flow of illegal migrant workers into Thailand by targeting the brokers who profit off of the situation for prosecution.
Lou said during the meeting that illegal border crossings in Battambang usually occurred in districts like Kamrieng, Phnom Proek and Sampov Loun.
“[Sok Lou] also reminded the local authorities in these districts to continue to pay attention to administrative inspections at locations where they suspect people intend to cross the border and to make every effort to identify the broker responsible when they apprehend any migrants, who should also be educated on the dangers and difficulties associated with it,” he said.
Kamrieng district governor Sok Kim Khon told The Post on October 18 that people were often cheated by brokers after they illegally crossed the border into Thailand because of promised work. Not only that, but the Thai authorities are stricter now due to Covid-19 and they often send migrants back.
“Our officers are working nonstop, without any holidays. And they have never slept well, especially the forces along the border. We are working hard to prevent people from entering Thailand illegally,” he said.
According to Kim Khon, the people who were being smuggled into Thailand illegally were not residents of Kamrieng district, but mostly from other provinces across the country. They were following the instructions of brokers who know about all of the border checkpoints and were aware that they were reopened in his district to allow people who had family in Thailand to cross over and help with the fruit harvest because Thailand was facing a labour shortages.
Kim Khon said greater effort needed to be made to educate migrants as to why they should not cross the border illegally and more should be done to provide them with employment opportunities in Cambodia so they do not have any reason to go to Thailand.
According to the Battambang provincial administration’s summary report for September, border security operations prevented 19 incidents of attempted border crossings involving 198 people, including 65 women and 28 minors.
Thai authorities were also busy in September, carrying out 78 deportations involving 1,245 people including 477 women and 24 minors.
Although it is difficult to determine the exact number of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand at any given point in time, some recent estimates by labour experts pegged the pre-pandemic number as high as 1.2 million, with a 60 per cent male to 40 per cent female gender ratio.
Separately, Cambodian Consulate General in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo Province on October 18 facilitated with Thai authorities the release of 104 Cambodian migrant workers for return to Cambodia, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong.
Kuong said the migrant workers were coerced by brokers to cross the border illegally to look for work in Thailand and had been arrested by Thai authorities.
“Consulate General officials had instructed the workers about the risk of illegal border crossings and the transmission of Covid-19. We cooperated with Thai authorities for the return of all 104 workers to Cambodia,” Kuong said.