Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Tuesday gathered officials from provinces along the Thai border and asked them to shut down unofficial crossings that are facilitating illegal migration, a ministry official said.
Speaking in Banteay Meanchey province’s Serei Saophoan City, Mr. Kheng told the governors of all seven provinces along the border, as well as senior police officials, that “unofficial border checkpoints should not exist,” according to Chou Bun Eng, a secretary of state at the ministry.
The meeting was an initial consultation about the illegal flow of laborers into Thailand, Ms. Bun Eng said. People on both sides of the border, she added, were operating illegal checkpoints, including dangerous crossings that involve traversing minefields.
But despite Mr. Kheng’s call to action, some officials who attended Tuesday’s meeting denied that illegal migration was occurring in their jurisdictions. Banteay Meanchey police chief Ath Khem was among them.
“There have been no illegal corridors since they were closed down two years ago” at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Major General Khem said, before hanging up on a reporter.
Oddar Meanchey governor Sar Thavy, who attended the meeting, said his province also was free of unsanctioned crossings.
“I don’t have illegal checkpoints,” Mr. Thavy said, declining to elaborate.
Pen Bonnar, community program officer for rights group Adhoc, said a government order to close illegal checkpoints was not enough. He said border police officers were known to be involved in operating the crossings and should be penalized.
“I don’t think it will be effective, just requesting that they be shut down, because the real offense is committed by the officers who stand there taking bribes from laborers to allow them to cross,” he said.