More than 450 Cambodians – including men, women and children – have been stopped attempting to illegally cross the border into Thailand through Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet district in the past three days, a figure police there called unprecedented.
Poipet police chief Om Sophal said yesterday that from April 20 through April 22, 461 Cambodians crossing back into Thailand after returning home to celebrate Khmer New Year were detained, educated on the dangers of such illegal crossings and sent back to their hometowns.
“They flock to cross illegally without documents,” he said, adding that would-be emigrants would have no problems if they chose to cross the border through legal channels. “They risk crossing without any thought of the dangers.”
According to Sophal, the mass exodus of Cambodians – mostly workers from Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom , Takeo, Prey Veng, Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Banteay Meanchey provinces – has been much faster than in years past.
“Every year, after Khmer New Year ends, there are many Cambodians illegally crossing into Thailand for jobs, but there have not been many workers gathering to cross like this,” he said, noting that the flow of migrants back to Thailand was usually more trickle than flood. “They seem not to fear the police when they cross illegally a lot. That’s why we collected them to provide education.”
Chan Dareth, a worker from Siem Reap who was stopped by authorities, said that the promise of many jobs with favourable pay had tempted him into crossing the Thai border.
“I heard from a friend that there are a lot of jobs in Thailand with high wages, so I wanted to try it,” he said. “But I did not want to go there legally, because I would need to spend more money, so I and my group attempted to cross illegally, [but] we had to stop to be educated.”
According to a report from the National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labor and Sexual Exploitation, more than 123,000 Cambodians were repatriated by Thai authorities in 2012, including more than 37,000 women and almost 16,000 children.