Cambodian construction workers in Thailand were returning home in large numbers as the Thai government has reimposed Covid-19 restrictions on all construction sites in Bangkok and four provinces for 30 days due to the country’s latest outbreak.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on June 27 announced the closure of construction sites from June 28 to contain the third wave of Covid-19. The decision comes with strict health measures to curb the pandemic.
Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on June 28 that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Cambodian embassy in Thailand and the Ministry of Labour were cooperating with the Thai side to solve the problem.
Loeng Sophon, a Thailand-based project officer at labour rights group Central, told The Post on June 28 that because the Thai government had made the announcement, Cambodian construction workers were worried and many had returned home.
He said that according to information received from Cambodia-Thailand border officials on June 27, hundreds of workers crossed from Thailand via the O’Smach, O’Bei Choan and Boeng Trakuon checkpoints and small border crossings in Thailand’s Surin province.
“They were worried because the period of this closure is one month and they saw their friends at construction sites get infected and quarantined. Those who do not get infected flocked to Cambodia on June 28,” he added.
He continued that workers have returned to Cambodia because they did not seem to have confidence in the Thai government’s preventative health measures. In one day alone, more than 5,000 cases of Covid-19 and 50 deaths were recorded.
“They are also worried because if they are infected, they do not know where to go for treatment and many Thai hospitals are full of Covid patients. When some migrant workers fall ill, they do not get medical attention. They are taken away from hospitals and also they lack food. So, other workers get scared when they see this and return to Cambodia,” Sophon continued.
The governors of Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey provinces and Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief could not be reached for comment on June 28.
But Battambang Provincial Administration spokesman Soeum Bunrith told The Post on June 28 that the situation at the province’s four border checkpoints remained quiet.
However, provincial authorities have set up more quarantine centres on school grounds. They have also prepared Covid-19 treatment facilities for doctors after receiving information that construction sites in Thailand had closed for 30 days.
“The Thai side said that migrant workers had rushed to Cambodia, but they have not yet arrived at our border. Let us wait and see for the next two to three days. We have prepared locations for our health officials to conduct tests at the four checkpoints in Battambang province,” Bunrith said.
Dy The Hoya, project officer for labour rights organisation Central, said that preventing Cambodian workers from entering the country is difficult, the government must ensure a protection policy so that they can live at construction sites where they are working, have adequate food and ensure other necessities such as water, electricity and accommodation.
“Migrant workers should get more protection relating to Covid-19, because if there is no protection policy, they have no choice but to return to Cambodia. If they come, the burden on the government is heavier,” he said.