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Cambodian Migrants Facing Lack of Jobs at Home Want to Return to Thailand

Radio Free Asia, Cambodia, 22 September 2021 - Some of the roughly quarter million Cambodian migrant laborers who flooded home from Thailand over the past 18 months when the coronavirus pandemic killed their jobs are desperate enough for work that they are risking arrest and COVID-19 infection to sneak back across the Thai border to do menial labor, workers and NGOs say.

Unable to find work to support themselves in Cambodia, which has been under a serious of lockdowns to fight rising infections, they are making risky illegal border crossings and working as scavengers and scrap collectors in Thailand.

“I crossed the border illegally,” migrant worker Pen Vin told RFA’s Khmer Service in Bangkok. She and three others spent an entire day trekking through a forest to get to Thailand and was once arrested in Cambodia for trying to sneak across the border and sent home, before heading to the border again.

“I didn’t have money to buy food, so I decided to return. I don’t have any rice fields. I have nothing to do,” said Pen Vin, who has joined legions of trash pickers who sift through rubbish and collect plastic and other items that can be sold.

Yat Nem, an unemployed migrant from Cambodia’s Pursat province who lives 20 km (12 miles) outside of Bangkok in a town called Chachoengsao, told RFA that she is unemployed and scavenging to make a living. She said that four of her fellow jobless migrant workers have just recovered from the coronavirus.

The 41-year-old woman, who earns about U.S. $50 every two weeks selling what she finds, said she does not want to return home during the health crisis and will continue to scour trash, collect plastic, fish, or clean houses in hopes of landing a job in Thailand so she can save money before returning to Cambodia.

Other migrant workers said they took many risks to reenter Thailand without official documents — paying traffickers to help them cross the border.



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