PHNOM PENH —
Thai officials say they are willing to take back workers from Cambodia, so long as they are not illegal or undocumented.
The announcement came following talks on Tuesday between the Cambodian ambassador to Thailand and the Thai foreign ministry’s permanent secretary, who are working to quell rumors that is fueling a mass exodus of Cambodians from Thailand.
Officials said Tuesday that nearly 200,000 Cambodians have fled Thailand or been forcibly removed by Thai security forces in the wake of a May 22 coup there. Thai officials have said rumors of a crackdown that does not exist are causing the exodus.
Cambodian Ambassador Eat Sophea met with Secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow Tuesday, in part to discuss the issue.
“We need to work closely together to allay fear among the Cambodian laborers in Thailand that it is not the policy of the current administration to crack down on laborers regardless of their (legal) status,” Eat Sophea said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Legal workers ultimately will be allowed to return, Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer.
“Thailand has suggested that Cambodian laborers who have already returned to Cambodia and wish to come back to work in Thailand must come legally,” he said. “They still accept [the workers]. They want them all to be legal to avoid human trafficking and labor exploitation.”
Both sides have agreed to establish a hotline to deal with the problem. More than 400,000 Cambodians were previously thought to be working in Thailand, either legally and not. In recent weeks, a great many of them have returned to Cambodia.
Joe Lowry, a regional representative for the International Organization for Migration, told VOA Khmer Tuesday that there are other migrants in Thailand, but the Cambodians are the ones leaving.
“We have not heard of any large-scale or even small-scale movement of migrant workers from Myanmar or Laos,” he said. “At the moment, the main mass movement appears to be among Cambodians.