Illegal Cambodian workers in Thailand
Friday, 15 May 2009
Written by Cheang Sokha
The Phnom Penh Post
As many as 500 Cambodian labourers being returned each day through the Poipet border crossing alone, police say
POLICE at the Thai border say they are seeing greater numbers of Cambodian migrant workers being repatriated by Thai police.
Hun Hean, the police chief for Banteay Meanchey province, told the Post that 200 to 500 illegal migrants are being returned through Poipet's border gate by Thailand each day.
That follows the news that Thai police in Sa Keo province bordering Banteay Meanchey arrested more than 130 Cambodian illegal migrant workers on Tuesday.
Hun Hean said that previously his officers used to see between 100 and 200 Cambodian workers returned daily.
"We have seen the number of migrant workers going to Thailand has increased," Hun Hean said. "But these illegal workers are arrested by the Thai police when they cross through these gates looking for work."
Hun Hean said many residents living along the border in provinces such as Battambang, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey head to Thailand looking for short- and long-term work.
"Most of them go with ring-leaders," he said, adding that some of those arrested are injured by Thai soldiers and their money confiscated.
Last September Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to illegal Cambodian workers in Thailand to come home, saying they would earn more money and would avoid the risk of being mistreated by Thai employers.
"I see that currently labour wages in Cambodia are higher than those in Thailand," Hun Sen said at that time.
"If they work in their own country they will not be looked down on by [Thai] employers or guilty of working illegally."
Hem Bunny, the director of the Employee and Manpower Department at the Ministry of Labour, said it is legal for Cambodians to work as day labourers in Thailand.
However, he said many Thai employers wanted illegal workers.
"This problem is caused by the Thai employers themselves - they want to use illegal workers because it costs them less money," Hem Bunny said.
"That is why the seasonal workers head to Thailand."
Hem Bunny estimates that 70,000 Cambodian workers who went illegally to Thailand are still working there.
But he said 40,000 of those have since been granted work permits, which ensures they get equal pay and are protected under Thai labour laws.
He said his department had pre-registered and sent 3,662 workers legally to South Korea in the past two years, 15,444 to Malaysia in the past decade, 8,930 to Thailand since 2006 and 42 to Japan since 2007.