Police around the country have arrested 80 brokers accused of having arranged illegal transport across national borders for migrant workers as authorities attempt to carry out strict quarantine measures and crack down on traffickers pursuant to orders from the prime minister.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told The Post on February 23 that the suspects would be quarantined in accordance with health procedures before prosecutions would proceed against them and the migrants who had sought to evade protocols.
Battambang deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith told The Post that officials in his province held nine brokers and were building case files for referral to court in accordance with the prime minister’s instructions.
“The detained brokers are both exporters and importers. Certain brokers bring our people to labour in Thailand. They make promises of finding work to people who do not know better. In fact, Thailand does not currently allow entry by foreigners.
“If people try to enter the country secretly, Thai authorities will arrest them and send them back to our police. Other brokers bring migrant workers from Thailand into Cambodia so they can avoid going to quarantine centres,” Bunrith said.
As part of efforts to prevent the community transmission of Covid-19, provincial officials were also working to publicise recent amendments to a government sub-decree which increases fines for people attempting to circumvent quarantine procedures and for those who offer such assistance.
“We have not only arrested the brokers, but we have also helped spread awareness of the sub-decree to discourage people from trying to escape quarantine centres.
“We explain to them that running away makes them liable for fines of one to five million riel [US$250 to $1,250] – and 10 to 50 million riel for accomplices – not including criminal penalties,” Bunrith said.
Banteay Meanchey deputy provincial governor Ly Sary told The Post: “In February, we have arrested three brokers – two by local police officers and one by military police.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 ordered border police to scrutinise people’s travels to clamp down on illegal cross-border traffic. He also appealed to Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand not to return home during the spread of Covid-19, even for the Khmer New Year.
While the Kingdom would always welcome its nationals home, they would be subject to two weeks of quarantine upon entering the country – and further measures if they sought to return to Thailand for work, Hun Sen explained, saying it was not worthwhile to try to return for just the holiday.
“We cannot refuse to receive our citizens who come back home, but we must keep them in quarantine. We also cannot allow them to cross surreptitiously from Cambodia into Thailand, Vietnam or Laos. All border police must stop migrants from doing so,” he said.