50,000 Illegal Workers Deported From Thailand, Official Says

More than 50,000 illegal Cambodian migrant workers have been deported from Thailand through the Poipet international border checkpoint during the first six months of the year, a provincial labor department official said yesterday.

Lim Sokhet, director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial labor and vocational training department, said yesterday that 53,063 illegal workers had been sent back to Cambodia since Jan 1.

Mr Sokhet said the numbers of illegal workers being deported from Thailand appeared to be increasing compared to last year. He said that about 90,000 illegal workers were deported from Thailand through the Poipet border crossing in 2009.

“We have urged villagers to find jobs in other countries through licensed companies so they can be safe,” he said, adding that his department was doing all it could to discourage illegal workers from crossing the border into Thailand.

Hun Hean, Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief, confirmed the figures yesterday, saying that 7,213 workers were deported in June.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, questioned the provincial authority’s statistics yesterday.

Mr Kuong could not confirm exactly how many workers had been sent back so far this year, but said that he believed the number was closer to 5,000.

He added that the government was assisting Thailand in the deportation of illegal workers.

“When we hear reports from the Thai news agencies about illegal Cambodian workers being arrested, the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok tries to work with the Thai authorities to help send them back to Cambodia,” Mr Kuong said.

“So far, the government—especially Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong—have appealed to all workers that they should go legally.”

Last month, the Thai government announced that it would immediately crack down on all illegal migrant workers living in Thailand. According to Thai news reports monitored by the Bangkok-based Human Rights and Development Foundation, more than 1,000 Cambodians have been arrested since the crackdown began.

HRDF consultant Andy Hall said in an e-mail yesterday that there were many reasons why so many Cambodians were seeking work in Thailand, including the Thai economy’s “desperate” need for unskilled workers.

“Migrant workers do many kinds of work Thais don’t want to do anymore,” Mr Hall wrote.

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