Cambodia embassy calls for calm as workers flee Thailand

Cambodia embassy calls for calm as workers flee Thailand

Cambodian workers leave Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo province for Poipet town in Cambodia on Sunday. (Photo by Sawat Ketngam)
Cambodian workers leave Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo province for Poipet town in Cambodia on Sunday. (Photo by Sawat Ketngam)

The Cambodian embassy in Thailand has called on illegal workers not to leave Thailand as officials attempt to negotiate a deal to allow migrants to stay in their jobs.

A crackdown on illegal workers in Thailand has frightened many migrants, with thousands returning home following the announcement of the new executive decree on foreign labourers last week.

According to a letter signed by Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Long Visalo on Saturday, the Thai government has said the decree will mean heftier fines for employers who use illegal migrant labour, the Khmer Times reported on Monday.

Mr Visalo said many Cambodian workers are concerned about their jobs, while some have been sent home to arrange legal documents. Others have attempted to get the correct paperwork through the embassy.

However, he said migrants should remain calm and stay put while officials try to clarify details of the decree.

He said some employers and unions in Thailand are unhappy with the new measures and have asked the government to delay its implementation to give them time to prepare, amid warnings that factories are at risk of closing down.

“The Cambodian embassy is calling for Cambodian workers not to rush home. The embassy and the Cambodian Ministry of Labour are working to find a solution with the Thai government,” Mr Visalo said.

The Thai government's foreign labour committee on Monday resolved to propose to the National Council for Peace and Order a 120-day grace period for employers and migrant workers to abide by the new decree, which imposes heavy fines on illegal foreigner employment.

Sin Nam Yung, a deputy chief for migrant worker coordination in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, said thousands of Cambodian workers have been repatriated from Thailand since Wednesday.

“Normally about 100 Cambodian workers come home through the border each day. But since Wednesday, that figure has shot up to about 1,000 each day, because of the crackdown on foreign workers,” she said.

Ba Raing, 31, a worker who recently came back from Thailand, said many migrants had returned home because they were frightened of being arrested by Thai authorities.

 “My employer told me about the Thai government’s new rules. They need legal workers but I was illegal and had no documents. I was really afraid of being arrested so I decided to come home and arrange the legal documents,” he said.

More than 200,000 Cambodian workers were forced to leave Thailand in June 2014. The deportation of the migrants came weeks after Thailand’s army declared martial law and seized control of the country in a coup the month before.

Banteay Meanchey governor Soun Borvor said local forces must do more to stop migrant workers going to Thailand without the right paperwork.

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