The children of Cambodian migrant workers detained in Thailand spend weeks at a time in a squalid Bangkok detention center, where they face hunger, overcrowding and violence, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The report, which was released Tuesday, includes first-person accounts from Cambodian children, many of whom have been repeatedly locked up at Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Center (IDC) despite being underage.
It states that about 2,500 children from Cambodia, Burma and Laos combined pass through the IDC every year, but does not give country-specific figures.
More than 650,000 Cambodian workers, many of them undocumented, have crossed into Thailand in recent years. While some laborers leave their sons and daughters with relatives back home, many take their children with them.
In the HRW report, a 10-year-old girl who was sent to the IDC three times told researchers that she was fed only “a little rice” and “slept on tiles and had to sleep in rows all next to each other because there were lots of people.”
After each episode in the detention facility, she was sent back to Cambodia.
Children are also exposed to violence, according to the report.
One girl, who was detained at the age of 8, recalls seeing guards beating a pregnant woman, just because she was playing cards.
Although a military coup in Thailand in May sparked an exodus of more than 200,000 Cambodian workers, many have returned across the border after efforts by both countries to ease and formalize the flow of migrants.
“In just 18 days between June 8 and 25, at least 246,000 Cambodians fled the country, according to the International Organization for Migration. Cambodians in particular fear reprisals because of political tension between the two countries,” the report says.
In July, relief organization World Vision raised its concern about Cambodian children being taken back across the border without proper documentation, placing them at risk of becoming separated from their parents once in Thailand.