Khmer New Year returnees from Thailand are increasing

Migrant workers are returning from Thailand via Oddar Meanchey earlier this month. Oddar Meanchey administration

Ahead of the Khmer New Year, officials in provinces along the Thai border say Cambodian workers have been returning from Thailand in large numbers every day, with some using fake Covid-19 vaccination cards to avoid a 14-day quarantine.

In Banteay Meanchey, provincial government spokesman Sek Sokhom told the Post on April 11 that the number of workers returning via the province’s three checkpoints had increased since early April, rising from about 250 to nearly 1,000 people a day may be. Most of them have already been vaccinated with a second dose, but there are also a small number who remain unvaccinated.

“If they don’t have vaccination documents, we require them to quarantine for 14 days. Some of them tried to use fake vaccination cards, but there weren’t many attempts. We don’t punish them but we insist they go through the quarantine procedure,” he said, adding that out of 100 unvaccinated returnees, only two had tested positive.

In Oddar Meanchey, provincial government spokesman Phal Lim said between 500 and 1,000 workers were returning through his province every day in early April.

He said that when asked, most returnees said they were either coming home to celebrate the Khmer New Year or that they had been released in Thailand. Some workers had crossed the border illegally and were not vaccinated.

“Nearly 800 workers returned on April 1, more than 900 on April 2 and over 700 on April 3,” he said

Lim said not all workers entering through his checkpoints in the province are residents of Oddar Meanchey. They came from all 25 municipalities and provinces.

He said that in the first 10 days of April 7,288 workers returned through Oddar Meanchey province, of whom only six tested positive for Covid-19.

Kheang Tha, a 38-year-old resident of Takeo province who has worked in Thailand for the past eight years, told the Post that before the pandemic, he visited his hometown almost every year.

He said he has not returned to Cambodia for the past two years.

“I work at a chicken factory in Thailand and make about $535 a month. I would like to return home for Khmer New Year this year but I am afraid it will be difficult to return to Thailand. I know I can enter Cambodia but I may not be able to leave after the festival. Besides, my work here is normal and I’m not affected by the holidays,” he said.

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