Ahead of the Khmer New Year, officials in the provinces along the Thai border say Cambodian workers have been returning from Thailand in large numbers every day, with some of them using forged Covid-19 vaccination cards in an attempt to avoid a 14-day quarantine.
In Banteay Meanchey, provincial administration spokesman Sek Sokhom told The Post on April 11 that the number of workers returning via the province’s three checkpoints had been increasing since the beginning of April, jumping from about 250 to nearly 1,000 people per day. Most of them have already been vaccinated with a second dose, but there is also a small number who remain unvaccinated.
“If they do not have vaccination documents, we require them to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Some of them attempted to use falsified vaccination cards, but there were not many attempts. We don’t penalise them, but we do insist that they go through the quarantine process,” he said, adding that of 100 unvaccinated returnees, only two had tested positive.
In Oddar Meanchey, provincial hall spokesman Phal Lim said that between 500 and 1,000 workers returned through his province each day in early April.
He said that when asked, most of the returnees said they were either coming home to celebrate the Khmer New Year or had been made redundant in Thailand. Some workers had crossed the border illegally, and were unvaccinated.
“Nearly 800 workers returned on April 1, more than 900 on April 2 and over 700 on April 3,” he said
Lim said not all of the workers who entered through his provincial checkpoints were residents of Oddar Meanchey. They were from all 25 municipals and provinces.
He said that in the first 10 days of April, 7,288 workers returned through Oddar Meanchey province, of whom only six tested positive for Covid-19.
Kheang Tha, a 38-year-old resident of Takeo province who has been working in Thailand for eight years, told The Post that before the pandemic, he used to visit his hometown almost every year.
He said that for the last two years he has not returned to Cambodia.
“I work in a chicken factory in Thailand, earning around $535 a month. I would like to return home for Khmer New Year this year, but I am afraid it will be difficult to return to Thailand. I know that I can enter Cambodia, but I might not be able to leave it after the festival. Besides, my work here is normal, and I am not affected by the holiday,” he said.