Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unofficial crossings into Thailand closed




Unofficial crossings into Thailand closed

Cambodian migrant workers wait at Poipet’s immigration office on Friday, after trucks full of workers were deported by Thai authorities back to the Kingdom. Maryann Bylander
Cambodian migrant workers wait at Poipet’s immigration office on Friday, after trucks full of workers were deported by Thai authorities back to the Kingdom. Maryann Bylander

Unofficial crossings into Thailand closed

The Cambodian government closed all unofficial border checkpoints in Banteay Meanchey and Battambang in an apparent response to Thailand’s laws imposing stricter punishments on migrant workers.

Phlon Dara, Banteay Meanchey provincial military chief, yesterday said that his province had closed 43 checkpoints on Saturday for an indefinite time period, following an order by the Interior Ministry on Friday.

“Because Thailand has a new law to crack down on illegal migrant workers, they have to shut down the small checkpoints to stop them from illegally migrating to Thailand,” he said.

Thailand recently passed a law imposing hefty fines on irregular migrant workers, their brokers, and their employers. Migrants can also face imprisonment. After a backlash by both employers and migrant advocates, the Thai government temporarily suspended the implementation.

“There are more than 500 people who tried to go to Thailand . . . but we stopped them,” Dara said, adding that the main international checkpoints remained active.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A truck packed with Cambodian migrant workers arrives at the Poipet border on Saturday, as Thai authorities repatriated thousands of migrant workers as part of a crackdown last week. Maryann Bylander

Sar Thet, Battambang provincial police chief, said they had closed “20 to 30 small illegal checkpoints”.

Migration researcher Laurie Parsons in an email yesterday called the move “political showmanship”. Closing the border, he said, “is probably an effort to demonstrate equal commitment to cracking down on illegal border activity; security theatre, if you like”.

The closures, he said, could harm people’s incomes, but did little to quell smuggling and irregular migration.

“Certainly, they form key arteries of everyday commerce, so it will put significant pressure on the livelihoods of ordinary people on both sides of the border,” he said.

He said Cambodia’s reaction should be seen in the broader context of border security. He added that the Thai and Cambodian governments held a summit last December “about gaining control of the border” in response to smuggling and border shootings. “It is all interconnected,” he said.

And while Cambodia restricted migration to Thailand, hundreds of migrants continued returning to Cambodia – both voluntarily and involuntarily – in response to the new law.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A vehicle packed with Cambodian migrant workers and their children arrives at Poipet border on Friday, as repatriations spiked with Thailand's crackdown on illegal migrant workers. Maryann Bylander

According to Poipet police officer Sin Namyong, almost 400 workers crossed back into Cambodia as of yesterday afternoon, and 736 returned on Sunday. The International Organization for Migration says the typical number of Cambodians returning in a given day is between 100 and 200.

IOM spokesman Troy Dooley said many migrants took deportations as an opportunity to get home. “For one, they decided to return because they don’t have the documents, or two, their employers asked them to return.”

Clarifying uncertainties about the suspension of the royal decree, Kamontit Bueatsong, an official at Thailand’s Employment Ministry, said the implementation would be delayed for 120 days starting retroactively on June 23.

She added that the stricter punishments laid out in the decree would not come into effect, but that the decree itself did not deal with deportations.

“After 120 days we will use the new law, until then we will only deport them,” she said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Belongings brought back by Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand after they were deported on Friday. Maryann Bylander

Nonetheless, Khun Tharo, project coordinator of Building Workers International, said many irregular Cambodian migrants in the Thai construction industry were “really concerned” about the decree.

“They try to escape . . . and don’t even talk to us [unionists], as they’re worried the Thai police can fine them,” he said.

Migrant worker Khun Sany said yesterday that she left because of the decree, and will obtain a passport in Phnom Penh. She said she wanted to return to Thailand on Monday.

“I have a week to get the legal document, as my employer let me come back to make legal documents,” she said.

“I previously decided to work undocumented because I have to spend from $600 to $700 to be legal,” she said, and added that she had to pay more for an expedited passport because of her time constraints.

MOST VIEWED

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that