Thai authorities repatriated 234 people to Cambodia on December 5-6 via the O’Bei Choan border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrov district, according to an official report released on December 8. The number included 120 women and girls.
In the report, the O’Chrov district administration also indicated that from April to December 4, this year, the Thai authorities had arrested 55,611 Cambodians including 25,151 females who had illegally crossed the border and deported them via the O’Bei Choan checkpoint.
Among the workers who have been deported, some had been cheated for illegal work by brokers while others had illegally crossed the border to search for work in Thailand.
According to the report, among the 55,611 deported Cambodians, 22,718 were from Banteay Meanchey province, 9,390 from Battambang, 1,404 from Kampong Cham, 2,749 from Kampong Thom, 3,069 from Prey Veng, 1,646 from Pursat, 6,107 from Siem Reap, and 2,250 from Tbong Khmum.
An unspecific number of people had come from other provinces.
O’Chrov district governor Ly Sovanrith said on December 8 that specialists had waited to receive the deported migrant workers and send them for quarantine.
Health workers in collaboration with police, military personnel, Military Police officers and border guard police had checked their temperatures and inquired about some other relevant information.
Sovanrith said if any of the deported Cambodians had high temperatures, they would be sent to the Poipet Referral Hospital for check-up.
He said those who had no health problems were instructed and educated to stop illegal crossings because of the high level of danger they might face. They need not listen to the incitement of brokers.
“We instructed them to wash their clothes and quarantine for 14 days. They cannot have direct contact with their families or others before being allowed to return to their hometowns.
“At the same time, we instruct them to wear masks at all times and frequently wash hands with alcohol or soap. They have to follow the Ministry of Health guidance. These measures are for the prevention and containment of Covid-19 transmission,” he said.
Separately in Oddar Meanchey province, there are three international border checkpoints with Thailand including O’Smach, Choam and Chubkiri.
According to provincial governor Pen Kosal, there are always people crossing the border in search of work in Thailand, but some do so illegally.
“Some tried to cross the border to enter Thailand illegally. The Thai authorities had arrested and sent them back via these three international checkpoints. But I have yet to have a monthly detailed report.
“On an average, there are 200 people each day who either return home themselves or are sent back by Thai soldiers. The Cambodian authorities wait for them at the checkpoints to instruct and educate them not to cross the border illegally, especially to help prevent Covid-19 transmission,” Kosal said.
Rights group Licadho deputy director Am Sam Ath said on December 8 that based on his observation, some Cambodian people had migrated in search of work in Thailand. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said some of them had returned home for fear of infection as Thailand declared a state of emergency.
He said some of them need income to supply their families and decide to cross the border to Thailand despite risks of Covid-19 transmission.
“We see that in the past, the government had distributed some money to vulnerable and poor people. But the money has yet to respond to their difficulties. So the question is, should the government consider providing more money? I think that besides providing cash to them, relevant specialists should help look for domestic work to them, as many as possible,” he said.