Cambodia’s prime minister says at least 250,000 of his countrymen who were migrant workers in Thailand have returned home this month under circumstances that initially violated their human rights.
Hun Sen accused Thai authorities on Thursday of abusing their rights when the exodus began in early June, but said that after complaints from Cambodian authorities, they were treated in a more humane way.
The Cambodians returned home after the military took power in Thailand in late May and announced a crackdown on illegal immigrants and those employing them.
The belief spread that all migrant workers, legal and illegal, were at risk of arrest, and rumours circulated that some were beaten or even shot by Thai soldiers.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 21 non-government organisations, earlier this month posted an open letter deploring the way the migrants were being treated.
It accused the Thai military of “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” towards the workers.
Activists said the workers had been forced out of the country, but Thailand denied the accusation.
Thai authorities then sought to quell concerns about a crackdown, adding that they had plans to systematise migrant labour.
Both countries are now seeking the migrants’ return to Thailand, which has a shortage of low-wage workers.
Cambodians, working both legally and illegally, fill low-paying and undesirable jobs shunned by most Thais, as do migrants from Thailand’s other poor neighbours, especially Myanmar.