Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Oum Reatrey said he has tried to negotiate with the Thailand side of the border to let Cambodian cart workers and merchants enter the country, but his suggestion was rejected.
He said this during a press conference on the “Progress and working direction of the Banteay Meanchey Administration” organised by the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit at the Council of Ministers on Thursday.
“In Banteay Meanchey, we are unique throughout the country and the challenge is the cart pulling workers. When the Poipet checkpoint was open, people transported goods by using carts,” Reatrey said.
He said as of now, Thailand has announced that the country is in a state of emergency due to Covid-19 and would not allow citizens or foreigners to travel in or out of the country.
The Cambodian authorities have tried to negotiate, but he said the Thai government has refused to open the border gates.
“I tried to have meetings with the governor of Sa Kaeo province and the relevant authorities to request that they at least allow a few cart workers, but Thailand is sticking to the zero-tolerance policy.
“The Thai government does not allow people to enter their country. This is a restriction from the Thai side. We have tried to help, but they won’t allow us to enter,” Reatrey said.
He said there are still between 200 and 300 Cambodians returning daily from Thailand and between 10 and 20 Cambodian workers are still trying to illegally cross the border to Thailand.
“The border is 153km-long if I am not wrong, and there are more than 50 corridors (unofficial checkpoints). But none of these corridors allow people to cross,” he said.
The closed border has led to hundreds of Cambodian cart workers and some vendors to demonstrate, calling for Cambodian authorities to intervene, so that the Thai side could reopen the borders.
But gatherings have been banned by the Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities.
Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association (Ciera) president Din Puthy told The Post on Thursday that if the Cambodian authorities raised workers’ concerns to Thai authorities, it would be a good thing.
But he said he isn’t sure that Cambodian authorities have taken up the issue with Thailand as a Thai report does not mention any claims from Cambodia on the matter.
“Cart pulling workers and vendors who put their lives and possessions in Thai territory were not only at risk of contracting Covid-19 but also face financial and debt problems,” he said.
He suggested the Cambodian government ban Thai lorries because goods from Cambodia to Thailand have many restrictions while the Thais can transport goods to Cambodia much easier.