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Returning migrant workers desperate for jobs

Sar Socheath / Khmer Times Share:
Migrant workers who completed their 14-day quarantine waiting to be released by authorities to return home. Banteay Meanchey Provincial Administration

Many Cambodian migrant workers who returned from Thailand following the COVID-19 outbreak are in a dilemma with no jobs and no money.


Son Seiha, 32, said he has been jobless since March last year  and has been trying very hard to get a job locally but all his efforts have been futile,

“Having to lose a job was a bad experience and not getting another is even more traumatic.  I thought when I returned to my homeland, I could get a job but it turned out to be so difficult,” he added.

Seiha said he has been looking for jobs at factories, private security companies and even tried at local restaurants but there has been none.

“I suppose times are so bad with the COVID-19 that I feel so helpless and devastated,” he told Khmer Times last Friday when met under a shady tree at the  Canadia Industrial Park in Phnom Penh.

Seiha is hoping that he can go back to Thailand to work in the plantation in Thailand, Surin province, where he was previously employed and earned around $9 to $17 a day after the nation overcomes its second wave of the COVID-19 spread.

Seiha said when he returned to his house in Prey Veng province after complying with the 14-day quarantine in Battambang province, he worked with his family in a rice field before moving to Phnom Penh where his sisters rented a room.

“I started looking for jobs and till today I cannot find one,” he bemoaned.

Sath Chamnan, 26, who returned from South Korea in July last year is also in the same plight and said all his dreams of earning and helping his family were shattered with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to go back to the electronic factory in South Korea where I worked for more than two years but I was told that I need to wait because of the pandemic,” he added.

Chamnan said when he returned home, he managed to build a house for his parents in Sa’ang district in Kandal province and to start a small business, get married and settle down but his dreams were shattered when he ran out of cash.

Now Chamnan works as a moto-taxi driver in Phnom Penh after other attempts failed.

Just like Seiha and Chamnan, there are thousands of migrants workers who returned from Thailand struggling to make ends meet with no jobs and no money.

Or Vandine, spokeswoman of the Health Ministry, said 12,088 Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand had returned between December 20 and January 7.

The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO)’s latest report “Coming Home: Are Remittances in the ASEAN+3 Another Victim of the Pandemic”, migration from economies within the Asean+3 region has been steadily increasing in recent decades. The stock has increased from about 14.5 million emigrants in the 1990s to more than 35 million.

The top destinations for migrants from Asean+3 economies have been both intra-and-extra-regional. Within the region, Thailand has been a major destination, in particular for migrants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Despite low wages, Cambodian migrants remit an average of $1,228 per year and interviewees said that remittances are crucial in maintaining or improving the living conditions of their families back in Cambodia.

Yesterday the Labour Ministry’s National Employment Agency identified 20,000 primary employment opportunities in various industries and sectors for Cambodian migrant workers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were about 1.7 million to two million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand, but as of September, there are about 1.1 million workers.

Besides Thailand, there are Cambodians working in South Korea, Japan, and Malaysia including as maids.


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