Hundreds of Cambodian workers repatriated so far in 2017

Migrant workers hide their faces at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2012 after being repatriated from Malaysia.
Migrant workers hide their faces at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2012 after being repatriated from Malaysia. Pha Lina

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs assisted the repatriation of more than 450 Cambodian workers in the first six months of the year, according to figures released Friday.

The ministry’s statement said 178 Cambodians were repatriated from Thailand, 134 from Malaysia, 68 from Vietnam, 24 from Laos and 22 from China. Another 26 were repatriated from Myanmar, Indonesia and Singapore.

In 2016, 816 Cambodians were repatriated in total. The number of repatriated Cambodians from Thailand – including those who were “cheated by brokers” and who were exploited in the fishing industry – has already surpassed the total number in 2016, when the ministry assisted the repatriation of 139 Cambodians from Thailand.

Repatriations from Laos also went up, from two cases in 2016 to 24 in the first half of this year. These include 11 who were undocumented and were arrested.

Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said the numbers were the “fruitful result of the efforts” of the ministry and Cambodian embassies.

But Dy The Hoya, of labour rights group Central, said assistance to migrants was scattershot at best. “They repatriate on a case by case basis, but . . . they don’t have a system,” he said. “They have it on paper, but their implementation is very poor.”

He said the support also lacked effective prevention mechanisms. However, Sounry said prevention wasn’t under the purview of his ministry.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan maintained the government’s mechanisms to assist migrants were effective, but acknowledged that labour exploitation remained a significant problem. “It takes time,” he said. “We gradually improve, [but] it’s never enough.”