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Cambodia wants workers to return to Thailand

Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Eat Sophea said Tuesday Cambodian authorities will encourage migrant workers to return to Thailand through legal means, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

BANGKOK: Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Eat Sophea said Tuesday Cambodian authorities will encourage migrant workers to return to Thailand through legal means, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

Sophea made the announcement after meeting with Thai Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow on Thailand's policies on migrant workers.

The meeting followed the recent exodus of Cambodian workers who feared round-ups by Thai authorities following a coup staged by the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on May 22.

The exodus came amid rumours of detention and physical assault on illegal Cambodian migrant workers by the Thai authorities after the military coup.

The military government has denied these rumours but Cambodian workers and their families said they are worried about their safety if they remain in Thailand.

Cambodian factory worker Mus-Goo said: "There are so many Cambodians leaving Thailand and this concerns my family, even though they do not know what the actual situation is. They were alarmed and they called and asked me to come home. This worried me more than earning my wages here."

Sihasak said at a press conference that NCPO does not plan to eradicate migrant workers, but only wants to regulate them to provide legal protection and to protect them from human traffickers.

"The NCPO wants to develop sound relations with neighbouring countries including Cambodia," he said.

Thai authorities at the border were told to provide necessary assistance to the Cambodians and prepare for more workers leaving the country over the next few days.

Sommai Pinpakwan, Klongnamsai District officer at Sa Kaeo province, said: "We were told to prepare for 400,000 people. At the moment, over 100,000 have left. Maybe by tonight the number will reach 200,000 people. I am not sure how long it will take for the other 200,000 to leave."

No one is quite sure about what will happen to these workers in the near future as both Thai and Cambodian governments are still coping with the mass border exodus.

One clear but daunting option is for these workers to find jobs in Cambodia.

Brett Dickson, programme officer for International Organization of Migration, said: "Further down the stream I think we are going to have to look at more intervention to assist them, to reintegrate back into their rural communities - finding them jobs, working on building up their skills for the labour market here."

The other option is for the workers to return to Thailand to work.

But that will depend on the clarity of foreign labour guidelines set by the Thai government.

The military government has said they are reviewing migrant labour regulations to improve the current system. 

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