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Cambodian families calling relatives to return home

FEARING A military crackdown on illegal workers, Wiang left his construction site in Bangkok without even receiving a single baht for many weeks of work.

"My employer said he could pay on June 28. But we can't wait till then," the 32-year-old Cambodian lamented yesterday as he was about to cross the border back to his home country. "My family demanded that I and five other relatives head back to Cambodia immediately".

His group had toiled on the Thon Buri side of Bangkok for nearly two months without a work permit, when their families called and told them to come back home for the sake of their safety.

Saweun On, 28, and his relatives are also heading back to Cambodia for much the same reason.

"Our families said things like Thai soldiers have launched a serious crackdown on illegal workers and Thai soldiers have already shot many Cambodians," he said.

Sa Kaew police chief Maj General Yingyos Thepjamnong yesterday said that rumours about attacks on illegal workers were groundless. He said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in fact did not have a policy to crack down on illegal migrants right now.

"But yes, if we find them, we will have to deport them," Yingyos said. "But they can always come back as registered workers if they want."

Wiang, who was arrested as an illegal immigrant some time ago, said he would try to figure out how to get a proper work permit.

"I don't think I will be able to find any job back home," Wiang said as he was waiting to cross the border checkpoint in Sa Kaew. "So, I will need to come back to Thailand sooner or later."

Warin, a 28-year-old Cambodian, said she had been working in Chachoengsao province, near Bangkok, for about two years - and without any rough encounter with officials.

"But I have to leave now because my parents are real worried about my safety," she said, admitting that she did not have a work permit.

Since the NCPO staged a coup last month, fear has been grown among illegal workers in Thailand partly because of military-led raids at places suspected of sheltering illegal immigrants.

Several Cambodian construction workers say their employers told them to leave in anticipation that officials will toughen their stance against illegal workers.

"My employer told me to leave before June 25," said Boonlert, an illegal worker from Cambodia. He said he himself did not want to leave because he was paid Bt350 a day in Thailand. "If I work in Cambodia, I will earn just Bt100-plus a day."

According to Yingyos, more than 100,000 Cambodians have crossed the border to get back to their homeland since the NCPO came to power.


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