Thailand has sent home to Cambodia the bodies of over 500 migrant workers killed in accidents and in fights from 2014 to 2017, a Cambodian government official says.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Chou Bun Eng—Secretary of State with Cambodia’s Interior Ministry and vice chair of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking—said that many had been killed while crossing illegally into Thailand in search of work.
“Some were killed by land mines or died in road accidents after being chased by Thai border authorities, while others were killed on the job, some by falling from buildings or by electrocution or by drowning when their fishing boats sank.”
“Others died in fights with coworkers, including Thais and migrants from Myanmar,” Chou Bun Eng said.
“Of these 500 deceased workers, 110 bodies—17 of whom were women—were repatriated during the first half of 2017 alone,” she said.
Over a million Cambodians are now estimated to be working in Thailand, Cambodian Minister of Labor and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said in a July 20 statement, adding that of this number 300,000 are believed to be working in the country illegally.
On June 23, Thailand enacted a royal decree imposing jail terms of up to five years and a fine of up to 100,000 baht (U.S. $2,941) on illegal workers in the country. The decree was suspended following backlash from employers and migrant advocates, but thousands of Cambodians had already fled the country, fearing arrest and deportation.
Thailand has been widely criticized by rights groups for its treatment of migrant workers, who are often exploited by unscrupulous employers and labor brokers.
“Thailand is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Reported and translated by Nareth Muong for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.