Ministry Says Reports That Migrant Workers Tortured Untrue

The Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok on Sunday helped Thai police investigate a report that 86 Cambodian migrant workers were being held captive at a house in the central Thai province of Samut Prakan and that two children among them had been killed, but by Sunday evening authorities had dismissed the claim as a hoax.

The Deum Ampil news website reported that a woman identifying herself as 26-year-old Chan Thy from Kompong Speu province’s Samraong Tong district called reporters Saturday and claimed that 86 Cambodians had been robbed, stripped and beaten by brokers over the course of ten days at a house in the Thai province.

“We have been tortured by brokers for more than 10 days and today, two 8-year-old children were killed by a Thai man who kicked them in the head when they asked for food because they were hungry,” the website quoted her as saying.

The woman made the same report to Cambodian border police in Poipet and Thai police, who then informed officials at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok—all of whom scrambled to verify the story.

“Our Cambodian Embassy officials are burning their fingers and toes working on this case, and have worked through the night with Thai authorities, hunting from one property to the next to find out whether the information is true or not,” Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Sunday morning.

Sim Sam Ath, the immigration police chief in Poipet City, said that after receiving the telephone call from the woman, he sent his subordinates to locate a broker well known for smuggling migrants across the border illegally, in the hope that he might lead authorities to the exact location of the house.

But by Sunday evening, Cambodian authorities on both sides of the border had declared the calls to be a hoax.

“We just received information from the consul in Bangkok that the reports of detention and the two children being killed are not true,” Mr. Kuong said.

He said that during a search of the area where the house was supposedly located, Thai police were informed that the individuals behind the calls—a Cambodian woman and her male partner, also Cambodian—worked in a factory in the Thai city of Ayutthaya.

“According to preliminary information, when [Thai police] searched the initial location, they found nothing wrong and went to a new location, a factory in Ayutthaya, but the couple had escaped already,” he said.

When police arrived at the factory, Cambodian workers there said they knew the couple who made the calls, but explained that they had fled for fear of arrest by Thai authorities, Mr. Kuong said.

“Unless we find the person who made the calls, we will not know the reason they made them.”

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