In the dusty border town of Poipet, things have quieted down compared to the previous weeks’ onslaught of trucks ferrying Cambodian migrant workers “voluntarily” back from Thailand.
Ms. Pheap, a seller of beverages and small food items, said. “I never saw anything like it before. There were so many people helping. The government, the UN [United Nations] and NGOs. They helped with medicine and transportation, for free.”
“Free” is significant to the throngs of migrants – an estimated 220,000 the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) said passed the border under duress. Terrorized by Thai military rifles aimed at their vehicles, exploited by police for bribes (lest they be imprisoned) and extorted for expensive rides by taxi drivers, this is a group that was clearly on the edge.
Sources told Asian Correspondent returnees spoke of being cheated for money during their flight and treated like cash cows. Increasing their stress, many were not able to claim their final pay in the rush. There is evidence that not all workers returned to Cambodia out of fear, there were some returnees that simply had no more work and were leaving Thailand voluntarily.