Chaos at Thai-Cambodian border

PHNOM PENH - Rights workers on Cambodia's border with Thailand described the situation there as chaotic Sunday after tens of thousands of Cambodian migrants were said to have fled Thailand in the past week.

  • Published: 15/06/2014 at 02:56 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

Cambodian workers wait for their return to Cambodia at the immigration office in Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo province on Sunday. (Photo by Thanarak Khoonton)

The International Organisation for Migration on Saturday put the figure of Cambodian migrants who had fled in recent days at 70,000.

But Kor Sam Saroeut, governor of northwestern Banteay Meanchey province where the main Cambodian-Thai border crossing is located, said more than 110,000 Cambodian migrants had returned from Thailand in the last week as of Sunday morning, many of them transported to the border by the Thai military.

"They're returning en masse like a dam collapsing. They've never come en masse like this before in our history," he told AFP by telephone.

Cambodian migrants starting returning in higher numbers last week after the Thai military junta — which came to power in a coup on May 22 — said it would arrest and deport undocumented foreign workers.

"People are still coming," said Moeun Tola, a worker for The Community Legal Education Centre, a local NGO that aids migrants.

"There are some tents but it's so dirty. There's no sleeping place and when people [have crossed] the border they don't know how to get home. It's so messy."

Chief government spokesman Phay Siphan said that Labour Ministry officials were monitoring the situation at the border between Poipet town in Banteay Meanchey and Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo province, and that the authorities had sent trucks to help transport people from the area.

"We hope the Thai government treats Cambodians with humanity and according to the law," he said, adding that he had not heard of any shootings of Cambodians by Thai soldiers as reported by local media in Phnom Penh this week.

There are an estimated 400,000 Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand.

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