More than 90,000 Cambodian migrant workers were deported or fled from Thailand in the first half of 2017, a 65 percent increase from the same period last year, Interior Ministry officials said on Tuesday.
The ministry held a meeting on Tuesday to review the human trafficking situation in Cambodia, where figures of migrant worker returnees were also disclosed.
Chou Bun Eng, chair of the National Committee for Anti-Human Trafficking, said afterwards that Cambodia Immigration Police documented 91,412 migrant returnees from Thailand in the first half of 2017.
“The number of Cambodian workers that returned from Thailand in only six months in 2017 increased a lot, by probably 65 percent, if compared with last year,” she said.
Ms Bun Eng said the spike could be attributed to the recent exodus of workers after the Thai government issued a decree to crack down on illegal foreign workers.
The decree was rescinded after thousands of Cambodia workers fled the country as their peers began being deported, after which the labour ministers of both countries met and agreed to give illegal workers more time to gather proper documentation.
Ms Bun Eng said of the 91,412 workers that returned, about 34,000 were women and 4,400 children.
She added that about 40,000 of the workers returned through a legal checkpoint, whether by deportation or their own volition, while at least 24,000 returned through illegal border crossings.
Ms Bun Heng also noted that 110 bodies of workers that died in Thailand were sent back.
There are currently at least one million Cambodians working in Thailand, including about 300,000 without proper documentation, according to the Interior Ministry.
Sin Nam Yung, deputy chief for migrant worker coordinator in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, said that Thai authorities deport illegal workers daily through the checkpoint there.
“At least one to two truck loads per day,” he said. “Most of them cross into Thailand illegally, without any documents.”