PHNOM PENH - More than 110,000 Cambodians have fled Thailand to return home in the past week, an official said Sunday, amid fears of a crackdown on migrant workers after last month's military takeover.
Labourers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar play a key role in Thai industries such as seafood, agriculture and construction, but they often lack official work permits.
On Wednesday Thailand's military regime, which seized power in a coup on May 22, threatened to arrest and deport all illegal foreign workers.
"They're returning en masse like a dam collapsing. They've never come en masse like this before in our history," Kor Sam Saroeut, governor of northwestern Banteay Meanchey province where the main Cambodian-Thai border crossing is located, told AFP by telephone.
More than 110,000 Cambodian migrants had returned from Thailand in the last week as of Sunday morning, many of them transported to the border by the Thai military, he said.
"They said they are scared of being arrested or shot if they run when Thai authorities check their houses," Saroeut added. "Most of them went to work in Thailand without a work permit."
Cambodian authorities have arranged nearly 300 cars and military trucks to transport workers from the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border checkpoint to their homes.