As the Labor Ministry wades through a scandal over the registration of Cambodians working illegally in Thailand, border officials said Wednesday that Thailand has repatriated 6,000 illegal workers to Cambodia in recent weeks.
Pich Saran, immigration police chief at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint, said Wednesday that Thai authorities have been arresting and sending back workers since early April.
“[Cambodian workers] have been sent back by Thai authorities almost every day,” Pich Saran said.
Seng Sakada, director of the Jobs and Occupation Department of the Ministry of Labor, said the repatriated workers are not among the 182,007 Cambodians the Ministry is attempting to register in its scandal-marred project.
Ministry officials this week accused Minister Nhep Bunchin of imposing an unauthorized charge of 1,000 baht (about $25) on Thai employers for each Cambodian worker registered. This charge was in addition to a fee of 500 baht (about $12.50) to be paid by the workers themselves.
Nhep Bunchin declined to comment on the 1,000 baht charge Monday. Repeated calls to him Wednesday went unanswered.
Seng Sakada, who has been overseeing the registration process in Bangkok, said Wednesday that since the project began early this month, 72 Cambodian workers have been registered. All have paid the entire 1,500 baht.
“The government only allowed [us to charge] 500 baht, but we charged them [more] because there was a directive from the minister to pay another fee,” Seng Sakada said. “I just followed the higher [official’s] decision.
“So far, we did not get a lot of workers because it seems the Thai businessmen are not so cooperative, maybe because of the new year’s celebrations,” he added.
Labor Secretary of State Sok San said the 1,000 baht fee is illegal and must be stopped. “The extra charge has not been approved by both governments,” he said, adding that he was concerned Thai employers may deduct workers’ wages to pay the 1,000-baht fee.