Cambodian immigration officials voiced concern Wednesday at new reports of large numbers of Cambodians entering and working in Thailand illegally.
According to Thai National Police Spokesman Major-General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, authorities arrested 189,486 foreigners—most from neighboring nations—on illegal work charges and another 91,451 for illegally entering Thailand in 2003, the Thai newspaper The Nation reported Sunday.
Out of the 78,438 Cambodians arrested by Thai police, 54,738 were working in the country illegally, the newspaper reported.
Bun Hor, immigration police director for the Banteay Meanchey province, said at least 3,000 Cambodians crossed the Thai border every day during 2003.
“The majority of Cambodians who cross the border are vendors at Rong Cleu market in Thailand,” he said. The vendors usually buy a ticket for 10 baht (about $0.25) to work legally in Thailand for a day, he added.
But at least 500 Cambodians who crossed the border in 2003 did not come back, said Chuon Vath, Banteay Meanchey bureau chief of anti-human trafficking.
Chuon Vath said the bureau spent a long time investigating why so many Cambodians do not return and attributed part of the problem to smugglers.
“When Cambodians enter into Thailand, smugglers are waiting for them,” Chuon Vath said. “They are promised false salaries and taken into Thailand to work illegally.”
They might realize that they were lied to later, but they continue to work illegally because they do not have the money to return to their country, she added.
Many Cambodians seeking employment in Thailand come from Banteay Meanchey province and surrounding areas to work illegally as farm laborers or in construction, Thma Puok district Governor Tok Saluy said in August.
In October, Thailand deported 921 illegal Cambodian immigrants. Comments by Thai government officials that referred to the Cambodians as beggars enraged authorities here who countered that the majority of the deportees were migrant workers.