Authorities along the Cambodian-Thai border continue to maintain tight security and prevent workers from illegally crossing the border into Thailand following the Khmer New Year, as the number of workers returning from the neighbouring country begins to decrease.
In Oddar Meanchey, provincial hall spokesman Phal Lim told The Post that before the New Year, many workers had returned home to reunite with their families. Some had not returned to Thailand as they were still enjoying the festivities and may stay for another week.
He said that although not many workers were crossing the border in Oddar Meanchey province, provincial authorities continued to deploy forces and prevent illegal crossings after the Khmer New Year.
“Oddar Meanchey province does not have many illegal workers crossing the border, because the terrain is very steep – especially on the Thai side. The majority cross from Banteay Meanchey. Nonetheless, we have not withdrawn any of our troops,” he said.
Lim said that since the holiday, the number of workers returning from Thailand has decreased significantly. In the last few days, there were only 60 to 80 returning per day, while in the days and weeks leading up to the New Year the number ranged from 500 to 1,000.
According to a provincial report, the number of migrant workers returning from Thailand through the Oddar Meanchey international border checkpoint during the Khmer New Year from April 14 -17 was only 364.
In Pursat province, provincial hall spokesman Leang Tith said that the number of workers crossing the border was currently low due to the Covid-19 problem, with the Thma Da International Border Checkpoint only open for freight. He said provincial authorities would maintain the lockdown.
“In Pursat, there are no ‘corridors’ or illegal crossings. Our forces are still monitoring the border and preventing all illegal crossings,” he added.
Banteay Meanchey deputy provincial governor Ngor Mengchruon said border controls had not been loosened at all around the New Year period, and no illegal transit had been recorded.
As people begin to flock back to Thailand, he issued a warning that this could provide an opportunity for criminals to conduct human trafficking, a crime usually carried out through so-called ‘brokers’.
“The provincial authorities have issued the strictest restrictions against anyone who engages in this illegal practise. We will come down on them with the full force of the law,” he added.
Despite the risks, human trafficking has already taken place in Battambang province. Sampov Loun district police arrested a broker and sent him to the Provincial Police for allegedly smuggling two workers into Thailand for illegal work.
According to provincial police, the suspect, Som Borith, 33, was arrested on the afternoon of April 14 in Sampov Loun district’s Sante Pheap commune.
The broker was attempting to smuggle two Cambodian workers from the province’s Moung Russey district to Thailand for the sum of 5,500 Thai baht ($160) each.
Currently, the two workers are being reprimanded, and will be made to sign letters agreeing to cease their participation in this illegal scheme before they return to their homes. The broker remains in custody awaiting legal proceedings.