Harvest Season Luring Workers Into Thailand

The onset of the dry season is again sending Cambodians illegally to Thailand to search for work, and Thai police are returning them by the dozens, police officials said Wednesday.

“Harvest season brings many Cambodian workers to Thailand. During the dry season, they pull potatoes and construct buildings, so more of them are arrested and sent back to Cambodia through the Poipet checkpoint,” said Nuth Ly, police chief of O’Chrou district in Banteay Meanchey province.

Nuth Ly said police have seized between 30 and 100 workers a day since the dry season began. Before being returned to Cam­bodia by Thai authorities, he said the workers must pay bribes.

“Workers were forced to pay 200 to 300 baht (about $4.50 to $7) each to police before leaving for their villages,” Poipet commune chief Sok Savann said. “How can they have money to pay police, when Thai authorities confiscate all they have?”

Nuth Ly said police ask workers to pay 30 baht ($0.70) for transportation from the border checkpoint to the district office.

“We do not force them to pay 200 to 300 baht,” he said. “After we receive them from Thai authorities, we just write down their names and villages and investigate whether they are involved in a robbery or crime in Cambodia.”

Police also ask workers to clean windows or rooms to prepare for imminent guests or ceremonies, Nuth Ly said. “After they clean the rooms and offices and sweep the front office, we allow them to go back home,” he said.

Nuth Ly said the workers are taught not to travel without a passport. “If they went illegally, they would be treated badly or put in a dangerous situation,” he said.

Border passes cost $20 and are good for one year, but few workers can afford the fee, Nuth Ly said.


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