Going Home, Willing or Not

Thousands of Cambodian workers have fled Thailand since the military coup in Bangkok, and more people are crossing the border every day. Workers are returning home via the border town of Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province. Cambodian officials say some have been forced out while others are fleeing. Photos: RFA.


Scores of Cambodian laborers were trucked by the Thai police to the border crossing at Poipet after the military junta started cracking down on illegal foreign labor.


Red Cross staff handed out instant noodle packets as laborers got out of the trucks in Poipet.


Stranded Cambodian workers gather in front of the border police office to await for transportation home.


Poipet Governor Ngor Meng Chhoun said Thailand had repatriated 37,200 Cambodian workers through the city since early June.


Reports of serious abuses in the Thai fishing trade and other industries have long plagued the Thai labor market with foreign workers cheated of pay and physically abused.


But workers kept coming from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. A Thai military truck full of Cambodian immigrant workers parks in front of Poipet border police headquarters to return those workers back to Cambodian authorities.


The Human Rights group Adhoc quoted witnesses as saying that at least nine people were killed during the deportation. Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deemed the information a rumor.


The Cambodian government organized 150 military trucks to repatriate Cambodian immigrants to their home provinces.


But stories of exploitation by middlemen have started to emerge as the crisis does not show sign of calming down.


Traditionally, the Thai economy has drawn scores of foreign workers from neighboring countries, including Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. But a Thai official said recently illegal workers represent a “threat” to Thailand.


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