Migrants Say Thai Authorities Charged for Deportation Rides

A group of four Cambodian “illegal” migrants jailed in Thailand say they were forced to bribe authorities there to take them back to Cambodia, officials said this week.

The men filed a complaint last week in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province, near the Cambodian border, according to Sim Sam Ath, chief of Poipet International Border Checkpoint.

“I heard from Thai border police that four Cambodian illegal migrants who were deported last week submitted a complaint against Thai authorities for charging money to transport them,” he said on Tuesday, adding that the migrants claimed to have paid 400 baht, or about $11.50, for the ride.

Mr. Sam Ath said the complaint had been filed late last week in Aranyaprathet district, near Cambodia’s Banteay ­Meanchey province, but was uncertain where the migrants had been working or what the status of the case was.

“I don’t want to comment on other countries,” he said on Wednesday. But “probably it sometimes happens.”

He was not able to provide details about the men involved.

A Cambodian official in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province who works on border disputes involving nationals and Thai officials could not be reached.

A migrant worker in Thailand’s Chun Buri province who referred to himself only as Samban said the practice of charging for deportation rides was widespread.

“Sometimes when an illegal migrant doesn’t want to be detained for too long, they negotiate with Thai authorities with offers of bribes to transport them to the border,” he said, saying the price typically ranged between 300 and 500 baht, or about $8 to $14.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor rights group Central, said corruption was endemic among both Cambodian and Thai immigration officials, and had worsened lately. Systematic solutions to migration issues were needed, he said.

“This is only the symptom, but we need to find the root cause,” Mr. Tola said.

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