Almost all of the men from Banteay Chhmar commune in Banteay Meanchey province are gone, swept back over the border to Thailand even more suddenly than their brief homecoming last month.
Nearly 380 of the commune residents, mostly men, had returned from Thailand among the swell of repatriated workers that saw more than 250,000 Cambodian migrants flee the junta, officials say. But unlike the majority of their fellow undocumented migrant labourers, the Banteay Chmmar group got lucky: As they struggled to find jobs locally, their Thai employer called them back.
As Thailand began rolling out a new, temporary system to register migrant workers this month, thousands of Cambodians have attempted to make their way back to better-paying jobs in the more robust neighbouring economy. But most returned migrants have found their efforts stymied, as Thailand only allows workers across with a passport or border pass and an employer to vouch for them.
“The ones lucky enough to be in contact with their employer in Thailand can return, the others go to their homeland and they can’t find jobs. Some girls are forced to work as prostitutes, some migrants are forced to beg,” said Rith Sacha, a safe migration program coordinator at Samaritan’s Purse. “They think their best option is to go abroad with a broker…”