The Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday explained how it is supporting Cambodian migrants abroad, as workers continued to return home from Thailand amid a crackdown on illegal labour.
At least 5,000 Cambodians have left Thailand in just over a week, although the ruling junta has agreed to suspend the implementation of stricter labour laws to give employers and staff time to adjust to the new demands.
According to the ministry, officials are working hard to protect migrant workers from poor living and working conditions abroad.
It said the majority of workers who die abroad do so because of health problems and traffic accidents.
The health issues are largely caused by having not enough food because of earning so little, and not enough time to sleep because of working overtime.
Some get sick when they work in a cold climate, such as South Korea, and cannot afford medicine, the ministry said.
Deaths at work result from working excessive hours, poor conditions and carelessness about safety measures on the part of employers.
“Cambodian authorities are checking the health of workers and educating them about how to take care of themselves before going abroad,” the ministry said.
“Cambodian embassies and consulates abroad are also pushing to reform the working conditions of migrants.”
A statement signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Tuesday and sent to the governors of the provinces and Phnom Penh meanwhile addressed the issue of Cambodian migrants returning home from Thailand.
He called on officials in border provinces to meet immediately with Thai authorities to arrange transport, food, health services and humanitarian support for returning migrants, particularly the most vulnerable, such as women, children and the elderly.
“We must strengthen cooperation to find the ringleaders bringing workers into the country illegally and take strict legal action against them,” Mr Kheng said.
Sem Makara, deputy chief of Poipet International Checkpoint, said 490 Cambodian workers were sent across the checkpoint yesterday as of 5pm.
“Between June 23 and Monday, 4,429 Cambodian workers were sent home through Poipet checkpoint,” said Mr Makara, adding that the exodus of migrants had slowed down since Thai officials suspended their crackdown on Tuesday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not put a figure on the number of illegal Cambodian migrants in Thailand but said local media estimated the figure to be between 30,000 and 40,000.
“I want to appeal to Cambodian people not to work abroad illegally. Foreign countries do not love Cambodian people like we do. Please if you want to go abroad, go legally,” Mr Sopheak said.
He added that there are many jobs available in the Cambodian construction industry at the moment.
“Cambodia has a shortage of construction workers,” Mr Sopheak said. “If people don’t have the official documents to work abroad, they should come back to work in Cambodia.”