As Many as 300 Cambodians Reportedly Arrested in Bangkok

As many as 300 Cambodian work­ers were among more than 800 people arrested by Bangkok police in a roundup of migrant workers last week, according to information from a human rights group in the Thai capital.

The Human Rights and Develop­ment Foundation said yesterday that the reported arrests follow an order from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva creating a new center to ar­rest and prosecute “underground” workers.

At least a million people work in Thailand illegally, according to the HRDF. In January, Thai authorities gave undocumented workers until February 2012 to complete a new nationality verification process that would let them stay in the country legally. To qualify for the extension, however, workers had to request work permits or apply for the extension by the end of February 2010.

Rights groups have complained that the scheme is unmanageable and wide open to abuse.

And ac­cording to the HRDF’s latest figures, nearly 38,000 Cam­bo­dians missed the deadline and remain in Thailand.

According to an HRDF translation of Mr Abhisit’s June 2 order, the new center is charged with “protecting, suppressing, arresting and prosecuting alien workers who illegally entered the Kingdom of Thailand and are working underground.”

In a statement released Friday, the rights group worried that the premier’s order could lead to hu­man rights violations.

“Experience shows migrant crack­downs lead to an increase in ar­rest, detention and extortion of migrants by corrupt government officials,” the statement reads. “This particular crackdown policy is premature, makes no sense economically and is unlikely to strengthen Thailand’s national security.”

A spokesman for the Thai For­eign Ministry was unavailable.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cam­bodian Foreign Ministry, said he was unaware of the re­ported arrest of Cambodian mi­grants as well as an order from the Thai prime minister for a crackdown on all illegal workers.

Labor Ministry Secretary of State Oum Mean and Seng Sakada, director-general of the ministry’s labor department, declined to comment.

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