Over 250,000 Cambodian migrant workers flee Thailand in fears of junta's crackdown: PM
PHNOM PENH, June 26 (Xinhua) -- More than 250,000 Cambodian migrant workers, mostly undocumented, have fled Thailand since early this month in fears of a military junta's clampdown on illegal foreign workers, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday.
"Up to now, over 250,000 Cambodians have crossed the border from Thailand back to Cambodia," he said during the celebration of the International Day against Drug. "This is the largest-ever repatriation we have met. It is like a flood that strongly hits Cambodia."
However, the prime minister did not blame the Thai junta for the return of Cambodian migrant workers. Instead, he said it would be an opportunity to turn the situation of the workers from " illegal" to "legal" status in the future.
Hun Sen said Thai army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, head of the National Council for Peace and Order, wrote a letter on June 18 to him and explained that Thailand has no intention to use forces or to issue any order to deport migrant workers from the country, but to collect the name lists of both illegal and legal foreign workers in all companies in Thailand.
A mass exodus of Cambodian migrant workers came after rumors early this month that the Thai junta would arrest and deport illegal foreign workers.
During the mass exodus of Cambodian workers, Hun Sen said the Thai authorities had arrested 13 Cambodian migrant workers, who were accused of using fraudulent work documents, and prepared to bring them to court. "Through the Thai Ambassador to Cambodia, I would like to ask Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, if possible, to drop all charges against them," he said, adding that the detained workers were also victims because they asked a ringleader to do work permits for them, but the ringleader used fake stamps on their work documents.
Meanwhile, the prime minister hailed local authorities for their efforts to transport returnees from the border areas back to their hometowns in provinces safely. "On behalf of the Royal Government, I'd like to admire all levels of authorities for their tireless efforts in transporting those returnees from the border to their home provinces and providing them with food and medical care," he said.