More than 230 Cambodian women and children were deported from Thailand on Sunday, according to a Thai newspaper report.
The 142 women and 94 children were smuggled into Thailand to beg or work as flower garland sellers in Bangkok, the Nation newspaper quoted Major General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, Thailand’s immigration police deputy commissioner, as saying.
The report did not say where the people were sent or their mode of transportation. The Thai Embassy in Cambodia had no further information Monday, embassy Second Secretary Songchai Chaipatiyut said.
The children ranged in age from 1 month to 1 year old, the newspaper reported.
Nuth Ly, O’Chrou district police chief in Banteay Meanchey province, said he was not aware of such a large shipment of deportees over the weekend. He noted that Thai immigration police deport 10 to 20 Cambodian workers every day on trucks through the Poipet border crossing. Some 4,200 Cambodians have been deported for illegal entry to Thailand since Jan 1, the Nation reported.
Many Cambodian laborers do not have the money to pay for a one-week border pass and cross illegally to harvest sugar cane or potatoes on Thai farms, he said. Nuth Ly said the immigration police no longer physically abuse deportees as they once did.
“This is a vulnerable group,” said Naly Pilorge, director of human rights NGO Licadho.
So far, police have denied Licadho access to the deportees, despite attempts to interview and assess the needs of some 900 deportees who passed through a holding facility in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district in October.
The Cambodians, branded beggars by Thai officials, were deported as authorities in Bangkok prepared for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.