Cambodian migrants facing job shortages at home want to return to Thailand – Radio Free Asia


Some of the roughly a quarter of a million Cambodian migrant workers who flooded home from Thailand in the past 18 months when the coronavirus pandemic killed their jobs are desperate enough for work that they risk arrest and COVID-19 infection to Sneak back across the Thai border workers and NGOs say.

Since they cannot find work to feed themselves in Cambodia, which was heavily closed to combat the rising infections, they make risky illegal border crossings and work as scavengers and scrap collectors in Thailand.

“I crossed the border illegally,” said migrant worker Pen Vin to RFA’s Khmer service in Bangkok. She and three others spent a full day wandering through a forest to get to Thailand and were arrested once in Cambodia for trying to sneak across the border and sent home before returning Limit.

“I didn’t have the money to buy food so I decided to go back. I don’t have any rice fields. I have nothing to do, ”said Pen Vin, who has joined legions of garbage collectors who search garbage and collect plastic and other items that can be sold.

Yat Nem, an unemployed migrant from Cambodia’s Pursat province who lives 20 km outside of Bangkok in a town called Chachoengsao, told RFA that she was unemployed and trying to make a living. She said four of her unemployed migrant workers have just recovered from the coronavirus.

The 41-year-old woman, who makes about $ 50 every two weeks selling her finds, said she did not want to return home during the health crisis and would continue to comb through trash, collect plastic, fish or clean houses in hopes Getting a job in Thailand so she can save money before returning to Cambodia.

Other migrant workers said they took many risks to re-enter Thailand without official documents – they paid human traffickers to help them cross the border.

Another worker, Y Pring, who still lives in Cambodia, said he wanted to return to Thailand because he could not find a job months after returning. The 32-year-old said he would rather have a decent job in Cambodia to go to work in another country, but local jobs are not enough to support his family and pay off debts.

“I want to go back [to Thailand]”He said.” I don’t have a job in Cambodia. I want to work there for another two years so I can save up to start a business. “

Unemployed due to COVID

More than 2 million Cambodians – about half of them undocumented – are believed to work in Thailand, where GDP per capita is $ 7,300, about five times that of Cambodia. They work primarily in agriculture, fishing, and construction, where they are vulnerable to human slavery and abuse of labor.

Jobless due to economic shutdowns to fight the coronavirus, nearly 240,000 returned from Thailand from March 2020 to September 8, according to the International Organization for Migration in Cambodia.

By mid-August, around 1,000 Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand had been infected with the virus, as the number of cases in the region rose due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

On Wednesday, Cambodia recorded nearly 106,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, including 637 new ones, and a total of 2,154 related deaths, including 14 new deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.

The situation is more serious in neighboring Thailand, a nation of 70 million people, with more than 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 11,252 new ones, and nearly 15,800 deaths recorded on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health.

Sun Seiha, president of the Cambodian Migrant Workers Foundation, said many workers in the country had called other migrant workers while still in Thailand and tried to find jobs through their contacts so they could return.

He called on the Cambodian government to create more local jobs instead of restricting border crossings between the country and Thailand.

“The government should speed up its vaccination program and open its borders,” he told RFA. “The government also needs to prepare legal documents for workers to avoid being defrauded and trafficked by traffickers [Thai] Immigration Act. “

RFA has failed to determine how many Cambodian migrants have turned around to Thailand after being repatriated during the pandemic. Cambodian Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour was unavailable Wednesday for comment.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen recently ordered Economy and Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth to invest $ 5 million to help local and migrant workers get jobs in agriculture and fish farming.

Most workers would rather find better-paying local jobs than work in Thailand, said Dy Thehoya, senior program officer for the Alliance for Labor and Human Rights Center.

While some in Cambodia have found jobs in agriculture and ranching, their incomes are insufficient to make a living and pay off debts, forcing many to return to Thailand, he said.

“The government should invest in vocational training so that migrant workers can find jobs locally after the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Reported by the Khmer Service of RFA. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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