More than 50,000 Cambodian migrants were deported from Thailand through the Poipet International Border Checkpoint, the main point of return for migrants, since the beginning of this year, according to a Banteay Meanchey provincial police official.
Lay Kimluon, the provincial anti-human trafficking police chief, said that 55,626 Cambodians have been sent back through the checkpoint by Thai authorities this year, citing a report that was completed on Friday but has yet to be made public.
The police official said that many of the migrants initially crossed into Thailand from other provinces along the border, but were routinely deported through Poipet, home to the main crossing along the shared border.
He said the workers were illegally entering Thailand despite the many risks.
“Our migrant workers who illegally cross to work in Thailand risk their lives because they face gunfire by Thai authorities, being arrested and put in prison, and cheating and exploitation by their ring leaders who send them to a third country to work as a slave,” he said.
Mr. Kimluon said he did not know how this year’s figure compared to previous years. However, Soum Chankea, the provincial monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said that such deportations were down significantly from last year, when the Thai junta began implementing new measures to rid the country of illegal migrant workers.
Mr. Chankea said that people would continue to cross the border—legally or illegally—until the government addressed the main issue motivating their migration, a lack of income or job opportunities at home.
“The problem with workers being deported from Thailand is because the Cambodian government doesn’t care about people crossing the border or the farmers near the border,” he said. “If the government focuses on helping the farmers, no one will risk their life to illegally work in Thailand.”