As Exodus Ends, Workers Return to Thailand

Thousands of Cambodians have already headed back to Thailand for work now that the exodus of migrant laborers out of the country has ended, even as the Cambodian government has doubled the number of jobs available for returnees who want to find work here.

More than 240,000 Cambodians flooded out of Thailand in the space of a few weeks earlier this month amid rumors that the Thai Army was shooting and arresting illegal laborers after having toppled the government in Bangkok the month before and imposed martial law.

Amid a relief effort along the Thai-Cambodian border to aid the returnees and help them make it back to their home provinces, the government has slashed the price of passports and work permits in a bid to get many of them back to their old jobs fast.

Banteay Meanchey Governor Kousoum Saroeuth said Sunday that approximately 10,000 Cambodians made the trip back to Thailand with the requisite paperwork in hand last week.

Some local officials have reported that returnees who were tired of waiting for the necessary documentation had headed back to the border with plans to cross into Thailand again illegally. But Mr. Saroeuth said he was confident they would not get through.

“I am not worried. The Thais are very strict now,” he said. “They are not allowing illegal workers to get across.”

Sun Sam Ath, immigration police chief at the Poipet International Checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey, said about 2,000 Cambodians had crossed into Thailand over the past three days, although he did not know how many of them were migrant workers.

The National Employment Agency, meanwhile, says 37,000 jobs have now been identified for returnees wanting to stay in Cambodia, more than twice the 16,000 jobs it had identified as of last Wednesday.

“When they came back through Poipet, we asked them what they wanted to do,” said the agency’s president, Hong Choeun. “We have 37,000 jobs available for them, and there are more.”

To help match workers to those jobs, Mr. Choeun said details about the openings would be sent to the provincial labor departments and seven job centers across the country.

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