Cambodia, Thai Officials Set up Hotline on Migrant Issue

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Migrant construction worker Chim Phon (2nd R) changes Thai baht to Cambodian riel currency as he arrives in the Cambodian city of Poipet on the Thai-Cambodian border, June 17, 2014.
Migrant construction worker Chim Phon (2nd R) changes Thai baht to Cambodian riel currency as he arrives in the Cambodian city of Poipet on the Thai-Cambodian border, June 17, 2014.

Cambodia and Thailand on Tuesday sought to downplay reports of a crackdown on illegal Cambodian workers by Bangkok’s new military junta as the two governments agreed to establish a hotline to communicate on labor issues afflicting the two neighboring countries.

Eat Sophea, Cambodia’s ambassador to Thailand, was summoned to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the issue as the number of illegal Cambodian workers returning across the border since June 1 hit 200,000 on Tuesday, according to Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Koung.

The Cambodian workers—who prop up Thailand’s industries, but are mostly living in the country without proper documentation—have fled or have been forcibly repatriated by the Thai junta, which threatened illegal workers with arrest and deportation last week after taking power in a May 22 coup.

Kuy Koung said that the Thai junta had agreed to “establish a hotline for communication” on labor issues, and assured Cambodia that it “doesn’t have plans to deport all Cambodian laborers.”

“They simply want illegal immigrants to become legal immigrants in order to avoid labor exploitation,” he said.

The Thai side also urged those workers who have been deported since June 1 to return with legal paperwork, Kuy Koung said, adding that Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to ensure that illegal workers in Thailand become registered.

“So far we have about 50,000 workers already registered,” around 20,000 of whom have returned to Thailand, he said.

Speaking after talks with foreign ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow in Bangkok, Eat Sophea dismissed reports of the shooting and abuse of Cambodian migrants by Thai authorities, which some have said triggered the mass exodus.

“The reports about shootings, the reports about other abuses are rumors and are not true, it's been taken out of context,” Agence France-Presse reported the ambassador as saying.

“We agreed to work together in order to clarify any issues.”

Border overwhelmed

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Tuesday urged authorities across the country to do whatever was in their power to facilitate the return of migrants to their home provinces.

“In order to help the returnees, the government would like authorities at the provincial level to welcome them at the border checkpoints and to provide them with transportation so they may return home,” Sar Kheng said in a statement.

“Please provide them with food [and] medication and make sure they return safely.”

Sar Kheng also called on local authorities to ensure that potential migrants are better informed about the situation they face working across the border in Thailand.

“[Authorities] must also disseminate information to prevent Cambodians from crossing the border to Thailand illegally and explain the consequences that might arise from doing so,” he said.

According to the World Bank, some 20 percent of Cambodia’s nearly 15 million population live in poverty, earning below U.S. $2.00 per day, and many have been tempted to find work in Thailand, where they can earn significantly more than they would at home.

Reuters news agency quoted Sar Kheng as slamming the Thai army for never consulting Cambodia about sending workers home.

“The army has rushed to deport workers who are considered illegal without prior notice or discussion with Cambodia or at least making contact with provinces along the borders,” he told a university graduation ceremony in the capital Phnom Penh.

“I think the current Thai army leadership must be held responsible for all the problems that have occurred, including the loss of life.”

Thai police say six Cambodian workers and a Thai driver were killed last weekend when a pick-up truck overturned on its way to the border. Thirteen people were injured.

Last week, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), an umbrella group of 21 nongovernmental organizations, claimed that investigators from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)—a CHRAC member—had received “credible witness accounts” that up to nine Cambodian migrants had been killed during the deportations, and that “beatings have occurred at the hands of the Thai armed forces.”

Reported by Ses Vansak for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (4)

Pol Pot

Khmer oligarchy always concerns about its own "wellness" and never thinks of its "people". Sihanouk was in China PRC (Pricks Reign China) for "Wellness". I, Pol Pot, myself staged a killing fields for my murderous lust and shoved the atrocity onto the Vietcongs. Hun Sen lived in "peace" in Vietnam while the stupid Vietcongs fought for him against my Khmer Rouges.
Today, this Hun Sen fawns the PRC for protection against his Khmer "folk".

And the "opposition"? It'll do the same as every Khmer Oligarchy always did in the past and still does today. Namely: My wellness versus the People.

Jun 25, 2014 05:52 AM

Anonymous Reader

Here is the difference between CNRP and CPP. CNRP sent in a concerned leader, Kem Sokha, to help the people. CPP sent in thugs to threaten people.

It has been like, with the CPP thugs, running the country the last 30 years like a mafia. Nothing has changed.

Jun 19, 2014 09:50 AM



1. ONLY after the crisis become international news
2. and a domestic CRISIS
3. The Thais made it clear that is a social and economic problem

YET, Sar Keng, a dear CPP princeling, would not admit to the labor explotation crisis, but made the THAIS responsible for Cambodia's vomit.


Jun 18, 2014 12:22 AM

sam kok

from Peking, Cambodia

WOW! WOW! WOW! it took ONLY 35 years for the ruling CPP to address the ongoing problems of LABOR EXPLOTATION at the THAI borders (and elsewhere, domestically as well).

“They simply want illegal immigrants to become legal immigrants in order to avoid labor exploitation,” CPP's Kuy Koung said.

ONLY after a BAD press that these CORRUPT dictators tried to clean up and do some damage control.

Of the 2014 3 BILLIONS budget half goes to crap social programs and 1.5 BILLIONS is in HUN SEN's pocket to be used at his discretion!
Their legacy and heritage of bondage, slavish mind since the Kings of Angkor have served well the current dictators.

Since 1993 on paper the constitution of Cambodia has NEW democratic principles to serve the people, they NEED and MUST use it to limit and supplant the dictators of the ROYAL COMMUNIST KINGDOM.

The KHMER people MUST WAKE UP and make their VOICES heard to HUN SEN and his cronies about DECENT LIVING conditions in their OWN country.

Jun 18, 2014 12:10 AM





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