Category Archives: Thailand

Cops nab ‘migrant trafficker’

The Immigration Bureau (IB) has arrested a 55-year-old employment agent who allegedly trafficked illegal migrant workers from neighboring countries into Thailand.

IB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang only identified the suspect as Petcharat Sathon, at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Officers caught her at a hotel in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district on Tuesday and she has been charged with smuggling migrant workers into the kingdom by bypassing checkpoints, he said.

Pol Lt Gen Sompong said the arrest was made after his bureau learnt the suspect had set up a Facebook page called “Je Petch Poipet” as a means to communicate with migrant workers wanting to hire her to smuggle them into the country while borders are closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the suspect claimed on her Facebook Page she could bring people into the country without them having to undergo a health check and a 14-day state quarantine to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Her customers were required to pay 4,000 baht for the trip, with 500 baht to be paid before setting off and the remaining 3,500 baht to be paid after crossing the border and before being picked up by an accomplice whose name and nationality are not yet known, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.

He said police were trying to find out who else was involved in her human trafficking network.

Written by Wassayos Ngamkham
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 16 July 2020

UN to help migrant workers

The UN and Cambodia are creating a six-month $1 million programme to help migrant workers from Thailand who returned to Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Siem Reap.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng led a meeting on Wednesday with related ministries and the UN in Cambodia called “The Joint Programme to Support Returning Migrant Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic and Its Impacts”.

“I hope this programme will be well implemented. If we do this work well for six months and use the money effectively, we will get more support from the UN,” said Sar Kheng.

Chou Bun Eng, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry said during the meeting that from March 21 through July 13, more than 100,000 Cambodians returned from Thailand – 58 per cent to the three provinces.

Bun Eng said four UN institutions – the International Organisation for Migration, the World Health Organisation, the UN Population Fund, and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund requested to be allowed to cooperate with the government.

This project will provide information about Covid-19 and its preventive measures, provision of mental health services, information on infectious diseases, and maternal and child health services, said Bun Eng.

WHO representative to Cambodia Dr Li Ailan said she wanted Cambodia to provide a balance between public health and economic necessity, including assistance to vulnerable citizens.

“I am pleased to see vulnerable people, including migrant workers, are being prioritised in Cambodia.

“Cambodia has achieved many things in the past six months and responded greatly to Covid-19. It did this work with unity and we want to create a new normal situation for Cambodia,” she said.

Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights executive director Moeun Tola said on Wednesday that the workers faced many obstacles returning to Cambodia, including paying bribes to Thai and Cambodian authorities.

They do not have money, they are unemployed, and they have no money to pay the bank. To tackle this issue, some workers illegally crossed the border to work abroad while some went to Phnom Penh to find work.

Tola called for the government to list returning workers and give them IDPoor cards so they can get supporting funds. The budget of $25 million per month, he said, should give priority to the poor and those who returned from Thailand.

“It is a good thing to focus on these three provinces, but there are a lot of people in Kampong Thom and Prey Veng also. There are more than three provinces and this programme should help the whole Kingdom.

“There are two ways to help them. The first is to make IDPoor cards for them. This way, we do not have to think further. The second is to suspend or lower their debts. If they have to pay $200 per month in debts, we should allow them to pay a certain amount, not all they have,” Tola said.

He said he asked migrant workers about debts. Some claimed that they sold properties to pay the bank to prevent confiscation

The National Bank of Cambodia, Tola said, had promised to encourage banks and Microfinance Institutions to favour citizens in debt because of Covid-19, but these measures were not practised in reality.

Written by Niem Chheng
Source: Phnom Penh Post
Published on 15 July 2020

Lao Migrants Returning from Thailand Stuck in Overflowing Quarantine Camps

Thousands of Lao migrant workers who recently returned from Thailand after losing their jobs to COVID-19 have been facing fresh hardships in crowded, undersupplied quarantine camps,, Lao officials and migrants told RFA.

During the coronavirus pandemic hundreds of thousands of the 2.8 million foreign workers in Thailand returned to their home countries after losing their jobs when their employers closed businesses, according to NGOs. But about 1 million were stranded in Thailand and only slowly made it out in the face of travel restrictions.

In late June, RFA reported that as many as 3,000 Lao workers returned home over the previous two months, crossing the border from Thailand after becoming suddenly unemployed as businesses shut down in response to the pandemic. Some took months to get home.

Returning migrants, many penniless, have to pay for their own food and are sent to crowded camps with no cooking facilities, toilets, or enough sleeping areas.

In one camp, a converted stadium, the migrants have to share tents and mosquito nets. Because they are outdoors, sleeping is difficult if the weather is bad.

“It is so crowded here at the stadium ground. They have separated us, making us sleep in tents with mosquito nets, so when it is windy or raining it is hard to sleep, especially when the ground is all wet,” a Lao worker from Kham Mouane province, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA’s Lao Service.

“We have to buy water for drinking and rice to eat and cook them ourselves. The rice they are distributing to us is hard, so we cannot eat it,” the worker added.

An official from the province’s department of labor and social services told RFA that the government has been putting returning workers from Thailand and foreign citizens visiting Laos in quarantine for a period of 14 days.

“Before, they were putting them all in one place but now there are several [quarantine locations,] the official said.

“If they have [nearby] relatives, they can receive food, but if they don’t, the government will help them,” said the official.

The official added that the government gives food, a pillow, a sleeping pad and mosquito nets to those who need them.

In another crowded camp at a military training facility at kilometer 27 outside the capital Vientiane, a migrant from Vientiane province told RFA that he shared a room with four people, but they had to supply their own masks and share everything. Some of the toilets at the facility broke down, forcing an increasing number of migrants to share a decreasing number of working bathrooms.

An official at the camp told RFA, “The army truck picks them up at the border and drops them [here] with food and other accommodations for free, as they are provided by the government. But they have to pay for masks and clean the compound and live together.”

The official said that the military facility can accept hundreds of returning workers. So far more than 200 had completed quarantine and returned to their homes, while there are 200 more currently there, he said. In the event that the migrant is from another province, after four days they are allowed to return home to finish their 14-day quarantine in their home provinces.

Meanwhile, an official in Savannakhet province told RFA that the province was operating two camps, and most of the migrants returning from Thailand are staying at a camp at kilometer 4 near Phom Vihan city in an old sports arena. Currently there are almost 300 migrants under 14-day quarantine there, with food provided by the government.

“Officials take them there after they arrive, and right now there are about 290 people there, and they don’t  have to pay for anything,” the Savannakhet official said.

The official said that the exact number of Lao workers returning from Thailand cannot be known because they come and go home after finishing their 14-day quarantine.

“So suppose this week there 300 people came in and then next week 100. After two weeks, they would be released to go home and a new group would come in, like a cycle,” the official said.

“The village committee will follow up with them once they are home, and the province committee will take them to their province if they are from outside [Savannakhet],” he added.

Thousands of people are still coming across the Laos-Thailand border daily. On Monday 2,267 entered the country through land border gates, 159 of whom were migrants coming come from Thailand, while the rest were foreign visitors and Lao travelers returning home.

The 159 workers were sent to the kilometer 27 camp to wait out their 14 days.

Across Laos there are 70 active quarantine facilities or camps, where 3,915 Lao workers and foreign citizens are under quarantine.

Some 180,000 Lao workers were known to be formally registered to work in Thailand, employed in  domestic work, construction, manufacturing, agriculture. They sent $149 million in remittances back to Laos in 2018, according to the World Bank.

Source: Radio Free Asia
Published on 15 July 2020

Labour Ministry resumes migrant permit services

The Labour Ministry has resumed services nationwide by adopting social-distancing measures in order to complete the legalisation process for migrant labourers who registered online by March 30.

Employment Department chief, Suchart Pornchaiwisetkul, said foreign workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos who registered online by March 30 must complete the remaining work permit renewal steps.

They must receive health examinations at government hospitals and then submit the results to an immigration office for a visa stamp.

After that, they can apply for a work permit online on the department’s website without travelling to a provincial immigration office, said Mr Suchart.

Monday was the first day that the government allowed foreign workers from those three countries to renew work permits that expired on March 31 in a new round of renewal, he said.

The permits had not been renewed earlier due to the government’s anti-Covid-19 measures, he said.

After an online application, foreign workers can receive a non-citizen ID card with a work permit at any district office, he said.

The department would remind employers via SMS to take their employees to apply for a non-citizen ID card on a specific date and time that have been arranged to help prevent crowding at district offices, said the director-general.

The department also suggested foreign workers in the fishery and seafood processing industry apply for a work permit and visa for their second-year stay during this period, he said.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cabinet approved the extension of temporary stays for foreign workers from the three countries until Nov 30 this year.

However, the department advised that they urgently renew their work permits due to possible delays caused by the pandemic.

Written by Penhchan Charoensuthipan
Source: Bangkok Post
Published on 14 July 2020

Thai fence said to prevent illegal crossing

Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provincial police say Thailand is not invading Cambodia after a series of social media posts about fences being built on the border raised alarms.

Banteay Meanchey police chief Ath Khem said on Tuesday the information on social media on Sunday and Monday was not true. The fences were erected on land far away from the border and did not affect Cambodia.

The Thailand side erected the fences on its land along national roads and at some corridors to block people from going in and out illegally.

“They erected [barbed wire fences] on their roads, not the border. When they cannot guard at checkpoints, they erect the fences. They do so, on their land very far away from the borders. Nothing is being reported to us,” Khem said.

He said illegal crossings remain a problem in Banteay Meanchey and the provincial police have tried to block Cambodians from crossing into Thailand in secret.

“According to news from inside [Thailand], Cambodian citizens made appointments to work there. Border officials here [Cambodia] have difficulty blocking them, especially at the Poipet border checkpoint to the northern Dangrek Mountain chains,” Khem said.

Battambang provincial deputy governor Soeum Bunrith said on Tuesday that Cambodians still secretly migrated to Thailand in his area.

“We asked for understanding from the Thailand side on this matter. If Cambodians get caught we ask that they be sent back to Cambodia and then we keep them in quarantine as advised by the government,” he said.

Bunrith said the border in Battambang has not seen barbed wire fences.

International Chaom Border Police Chief Touch Ra said on Tuesday there is commercial trade on the Cambodia-Thai border, but citizens are not allowed to enter.

“We talked with the Thai side already that there must not be any changes from the original state … Everything must be the same,” Ra said.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said there are two reasons behind deploying barbed wires. The first is that Thailand is concerned about Covid-19 and some Cambodians went to work there illegally.

“The second reason, as Khmer people, we all know that barbed wire is for preventing illegal border crossing. Some of us have faced this before,” he said.

Written by Voun Dara
Source: Phnom Penh Post
Published on 14 July 2020

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