The Thai government has confirmed that a Cambodian national was among two immigrants found dead in a detention center in Bangkok last week.
The Cambodian man, identified only as Sakhi, 55, was found dead with another Vietnamese detainee, known as Robat, 77, according to Thailand Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Busadee Santipitak.
The pair had been held in police custody at the Immigration Bureau's detention center in Bangkok's Thung Mahamek district amid nationwide raids by officials on undocumented migrant workers, Busadee Santipitak told VOA.
“They passed away in their sleep without any sign of injury,” she said. “The cause of their deaths are being investigated. Their bodies have been sent to Chulalongkorn Hospital for a detailed autopsy.”
Thailand has renewed an extensive crackdown on undocumented or overstaying foreigners after the appointment of senior cop Surachet Hakphan as the country's new immigration czar earlier this month.
While the chance for detainees busted in the campaign, including refugees and children, to pay roughly $1,500 bail has been revoked, the immigration sweep is adding pressure to the already-overpopulated detention center, better known as Suan Phlu IDC, said Phil Robertson, deputy chief of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.
“The Suan Phlu IDC is an old facility that is incredibly overcrowded and highly unhygienic, with major deficiencies in provision of nutritious food and adequate health care,” Robertson told VOA in an email.
“Given how bad the conditions are and the sudden surge of people detained there because of these immigration sweeps, it’s reasonable to expect there will be more people falling seriously ill at this facility.”
The Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok and foreign and labor spokespeople could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The immigration crackdown took place as Thailand is expected to hold a general election – the first since the 2014 coup d'état that toppled the democratically-elected Pheu Thai Party government.
After the May 2014 military takeover, the junta oversaw a sudden immigration exodus, with some 220,000 undocumented Cambodian workers being deported.
Approximately 1.5 million Cambodians are – either legally or illegally – working in Thailand.
Previous media reports cited Cambodian Labor Minister Ith Samheng as saying back in May that a push by Cambodian government to coordinate the legalization of its citizens working in Thailand had seen only about 80,000 workers registered by the middle of this year.