As hundreds of Cambodians continue to return from Thailand daily despite calls for calm and assurances they will not face arrest or deportation, the Interior Ministry has ordered authorities in border provinces to help migrant workers get home safely.
Thailand passed new laws late last month that slapped the country’s illegal migrant workforce with tougher punishments for offenders and employers. It sparked panic, with thousands of workers—including some with legal documentation—fleeing across the border as the crackdown began on June 23.
Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order said it would postpone the enforcement of the new penalties for 180 days, or until December 31, a Thai military chief told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday. But Cambodians have continued to return home.
In response, the Interior Ministry has called on authorities in border provinces to take greater responsibility in “facilitating and supporting the workers who were arrested and sent back to Cambodia by Thai authorities,” according to a statement dated Tuesday and signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
Officials on the border with Thailand would need to meet with Thai counterparts to improve cooperation and information sharing, and request that Thailand “pay more attention to having proper transportation, respecting the rights of the people, security, health and meals,” the statement says.
The ministry also called for public donations of money, food and medicine, and help with providing shelter and transportation to returning workers.
More than 6,200 Cambodians have returned to the country from Thailand through the Poipet International Checkpoint from June 23 to on Wednesday afternoon, an immigration police officer at the checkpoint said.
Returning Cambodians have been directed to vans to take them to their hometowns, said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The checkpoint paid transportation costs for those who could not afford it, he added.
Heng Sour, Labor Ministry spokesman, said in a message that the government had instructed all provinces bordering Thailand to be prepared to help returning workers. He said the two countries’ labor ministers would meet today to “speed up the legalization” of Cambodian workers in Thailand.