More than 20 days after the government reopened border checkpoints with Thailand on August 13, nearly 16,000 Cambodian workers have returned home through crossings in Oddar Meanchey and Banteay Meanchey provinces.
The two provinces are experiencing the most entries by migrant workers, authorities said, adding that an average of 200 to 300 workers returned each day.
Oddar Meanchey provincial Department of Information director Phal Lim told The Post on September 6 that the number of migrant workers returning from Thailand has not shown any sign of diminishing.
“Since the border reopened to September 5, a total of 6,428 migrant workers had returned from Thailand, of whom 740 were Covid-19 positive,” Lim said.
He said all of them had returned legally through official border checkpoints, not through illegal corridors as they did before the pandemic began. This was because provincial authorities had tightened border security, he said.
“On September 4, Oddar Meanchey provincial governor Pen Kosal inspected corridors and instructed troops stationed there to work hard. If workers managed to sneak through corridors, the officers would be fined or demoted,” he said.
“Many workers had previously crossed the border illegally, but not so many now. There are still a few who try. On September 3, Thai troops sent back a Cambodian worker who crossed illegally into Thailand.
The worker has since been taken to a quarantine centre,” he said.
In Banteay Meanchey province, information department director Sek Sokhom said more than 7,000 Cambodian workers had entered the province from Thailand, and more workers keep returning.
He said most workers returned because they have lost their jobs in Thailand after construction sites or other companies closed due to the pandemic. Returning home for family reunions during the Pchum Ben festival and to farm their land are other reasons for returning, he said.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Cambodia, from 22 August to September 1, a total of 15,749 migrants workers had returned, many of whom tested positive for Covid-19.
Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central), said migrant workers returned because only a small number have been vaccinated and they are afraid of contracting Covid-19 and after losing their jobs.