More than 100 migrant workers and two human rights groups have accused immigration police at Poipet’s international border gate of extorting money from Cambodians crossing the border, though officials denied the charge Tuesday.
A complaint sent Tuesday to Interior Minister Sar Kheng through the Cambodian Center for Human Rights calls for an end to the illegal practice of levying charges against Cambodians at the Poipet border and for the ministry “to remove Pich Saran, chief of Poipet International Immigration Police, from his post.”
The complaint was dated Oct 10 with fingerprints from about 130 motorcycle taxi drivers, market vendors and Cambodians deported from Thailand who claim immigration police charge Cambodians 200 to 300 baht (about $6 to $9) when they cross into or return from Thailand.
The deportees claimed that immigration police detained them for a day for not having 200 baht to pay them.
“We were beaten and looked down on with bad and inhuman words,” according to the complaint, which was sent to the press.
Contacted by telephone Tuesday, Pich Saran denied the accusations and said the 50 to 100 Cambodians deported daily back from Thailand are processed at no fee by his immigration police officers.
“Those complainants should provide clear evidence in making strong allegations against me, because my immigration police here and myself have never extorted money from deportees,” he said.
Deputy Chief of Poipet International Immigration Police Kao Bunrith said 3,000 Cambodians cross the border daily, and he rejected the claim that taxi drivers or market vendors are ever charged in the process.
In actuality, Kao Bunrith said by telephone Tuesday, Thai immigration police levy a 200 baht surcharge on each Cambodian crossing the border.
“There is no way that our immigration police do so,” he said. “Not even one of our immigration police has extorted taxi drivers or confiscated the property of returnees,” he said.
However, migrant worker Him Raksmey claimed Tuesday that she and her four cousins were each charged 300 baht by Poipet International Immigration Police when they were deported to Cambodia in September.
“Anybody who has money will be released from immigration police after paying 300 baht, while others have their mobile phones or other properties in their pockets confiscated by police after being checked,” the 19-year-old signatory of CCHR’s complaint said Tuesday by telephone.
CCHR investigator Sem Chau Sok and Adhoc investigator Suom Chankea both said they have interviewed scores of deportees and migrant workers who have accused the Poipet immigration police of charging Cambodians 200 to 300 baht to cross the border.
“Immigration and taxation officials here have luxury and modern vehicles, but they even take money from ox-cart riders,” Suom Chankea said by telephone Tuesday.
The Interior Ministry’s Immigration Police Department Director Thong Lim declined to comment on the complaints against his officers Tuesday.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.