Although the number of illegal Cambodian workers going to Thailand has decreased during Khmer New Year, immigration and provincial police in Poipet still estimate that 50 workers illegally cross into Thailand every day.
In late March, police in Poipet said Thai police arrested and returned an estimated 100 workers to Poipet every day.
“The workers say they go to work in Thailand because they don’t have good jobs or rice fields to cultivate in Cambodia,” said Amg Tong, a Poipet immigration police officer. “[During Khmer New Year] fewer Cambodians go to Thailand to work.”
Most workers who have been returned to Cambodia say they find work in Thailand as construction workers and can earn between $2 and $3 a day, Amg Tong said. Laborers who are fluent in Thai can earn up to $4.50 a day, he said.
Cambodians in Poipet and other cities along the border can legally work in Thailand if they pay for a one-day 10 baht (about $0.23) pass. Many Cambodians, however, choose not to pay the fee and enter Thailand illegally.
On March 22, reporters witnessed Thai border police transporting more than 50 workers caught working illegally in Thailand back to Poipet. The 50 workers were the third batch of illegal laborers returned to Poipet that day, police said. Eight laborers were interviewed as they sat at the Poipet police station, and all told similar stories. Sok Tha, 40, said she had been living in Thailand illegally for four months before she was arrested by Thai police. She said her husband was working as a fisherman in an unnamed coastal Thai town and earned close to $4 a day.
Sok Tha was caught when she was traveling in a taxi back to Thailand after she made a quick visit to Cambodia. She said Thai police detained her for almost three weeks before she was sent back to Cambodia. “I didn’t want to go to Thailand because I have no family there,” she said awaiting her release. “But we have no work in Cambodia.”
Poipet police said Cambodian authorities detain the illegal workers briefly and write down their names to keep track of how many times the person is arrested by Thai police.
After they process the illegal workers, they release them, a police official said.