Although the number of migrant workers who crossed to Thailand through the Poipet International Border Checkpoint decreased slightly from 2013 to 2014, the number of people who died while working in Thailand appeared to increase, a provincial official said this week.
There were 148 bodies of workers repatriated through the checkpoint last year, compared to 102 in 2013, according to Suy Bunthan, a coordinator for the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Council, which oversees the checkpoint.
This rise occurred even in the face of a 13 percent decrease in the number of workers crossing the checkpoint, from 40,985 in 2013 to 35,336 in 2014, according to the provincial figures.
“The number of dead seems to be increasing,” Mr. Bunthan said on Thursday, adding that most of the workers repatriated through the checkpoint had died in workplace accidents or car crashes.
Deputy provincial police chief Sith Luos said that generally, about 90 percent of the bodies of migrants are identified and returned to relatives. The other 10 percent are cremated at a local pagoda.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, claimed that Cambodian authorities do not perform examinations or autopsies on the bodies returned, and that only about 10 percent of victims’ families receive compensation from the companies that employed them.
“Cambodian officials at the border checkpoint and provincial authorities always agree with what Thai authorities tell them—for example, that the victim died of heart attack,” he said.
Mr. Luos dismissed Mr. Chankea’s claims, saying that authorities “critically examine” each body that is repatriated.
However, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said autopsies on workers who die in Thailand are normally carried out at Thai hospitals, adding that he was not sure how often the bodies are re-examined once back in Cambodia, if ever.
(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)