More than 100 migrant workers in Banteay Meanchey province were stopped and briefly detained Thursday as they tried to cross the border to find work in Thailand, authorities said, while a rights worker said 23 more Cambodian migrants have been arrested in Thailand.
Malai district police chief Sao Bun said scores of workers were stopped at the border in a joint operation between Cambodian and Thai authorities, which saw 109 would-be migrants turned back and told they needed to fill out proper paperwork before being allowed to cross into Thailand.
“We cooperated with Thai soldiers to stop those migrant workers and we sent them to our district police station to educate them and make them understand the difficulties of working illegally in Thailand,” Mr. Bun said.
Workers had told Mr. Bun that they did not want to take the time to process paperwork before heading to Thailand, and that some workers have been contacted by their former employers in Thailand asking for them to return.
“I understand that Thai bosses have also committed wrongdoing by telephoning our migrant workers to work for them, but they are not responsible when problems happen,” he said.
Soum Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he received word from Cambodian soldiers along the border that Thai soldiers had arrested 23 Cambodian migrant workers in the neighboring Thai province of Sa Kaeo.
“Thai soldiers arrested 23 migrant workers in Sa Kaeo province today and we are now working on this to find where they were detained,” Mr. Chankea said, declining to name or provide contact information for the soldiers who provided the information.
Provincial governor Kousoum Saroeuth said he had heard nothing about the arrests.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he did not know about the specific case referred to by Mr. Chankea, but said more than 100 Cambodian workers have been arrested in Thailand since the junta took power in late May.
“So far, I am informed that 107 [Cambodian workers] have been arrested. Shortly after they were arrested, they are already released and all of them went home,” he said.
Last month, hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers—most of them undocumented—swarmed back across the border amid fears of arrests and violence at the hands of the junta.
Fourteen Cambodian workers who had been imprisoned in Thailand since last month and were set to face trial over charges of having fraudulent working documents will be released, Thailand’s acting justice minister announced on Wednesday. On Tuesday, King Sihamoni granted a royal pardon to Thai yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid, who has been imprisoned in Cambodia since 2010.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)