Roundup: Over 200,000 Cambodian migrants flee Thailand, junta denies deportation policy

Roundup: Over 200,000 Cambodian migrants flee Thailand, junta denies deportation policy

PHNOM PENH, June 17 (Xinhua) -- The Thai military junta said Tuesday it had no policy to deport Cambodian migrant workers, although a senior Cambodian official said over 200,000 Cambodian migrant workers, mostly illegal ones, have been deported from or fled Thailand since early this month.

Koy Kuong, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a press statement on Tuesday afternoon that Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand Eat Sophea met with Thai Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow on Tuesday morning in Bangkok to discuss Thailand's policies on migrant workers.

"The Thai Foreign Ministry affirms that Thailand has no policy and plan to deport Cambodian migrant workers," he said in the statement. "Thai side wants all foreign laborers working in Thailand to be legal workers in order to curb human trafficking and exploitation of labor forces."

According to Koy Kuong, the Thai side also suggested that Cambodian workers, if they want to return to work in Thailand, should go by legal means.

Despite Thailand's denial of the massive deportation of Cambodian migrant workers, Major General Pich Vanna, chief of Cambodia-Thailand Border Relation Affairs Office, said Tuesday afternoon that more than 200,000 Cambodian migrant laborers, mostly illegal workers, have been deported from or fled Thailand over fears of a junta-led clampdown on illegal migrant workers since early this month.

"Many more will be repatriated from Thailand to Cambodia in coming days," he told Xinhua over telephone.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Tuesday that the Thai military regime must be held accountable for all the problems that have happened, including the deaths of 8 Cambodian laborers in road accidents in Thailand.

Last week, eight Cambodian migrant workers were killed in Thailand in two road accidents when they traveled back to Cambodia for fears of the junta's crackdown.

"After a military coup (on May 22), the Thai military junta has arrested and sent Cambodian illegal migrant workers back to Cambodia in a rush without prior notice or discussion with Cambodia," he said at a university graduation ceremony. "I think that the current Thai military junta leadership must be held responsible for all the problems that have occurred, including the loss of life."

Sar Kheng estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 Cambodian workers were working in Thailand before the clampdown.

Cambodian Minister of Labor Ith Samheng said Monday that Cambodian migrant laborers working in Thailand send home about 200 million U.S. dollars a year.