Joe Lowry of the International Organization of Migration was one of the many activists, humanitarian responders, politicians, and volunteers who gathered recently at the Thai-Cambodia border to witness a stunning migration of 10,000 people per day. “The sheer number of people is overwhelming,” he says to the camera as packed busses of Cambodians are unloaded in the border city of Poi Pet, and people carry their belongings in sacks and boxes over their heads.

In the first two weeks of June, according to the IOM, more than 250,000 Cambodians crossed back to their home country from Thailand, after a military junta overtook the Thai government.

Human Rights

While many wondered why so many Cambodian migrants suddenly fled Thailand, and if they had done so of their own will, Venerable Sovath, a Cambodian Buddhist monk and human rights defender, addressed another question in the video below, also taken at Poi Pet: why had so many Cambodians had migrated to Thailand in the first place, and what would they face upon their return?

The translation provided in a comment to the video on YouTube provides a rough understanding of Venerable Sovath’s commentary and interviews. In the first interview, a local opposition politician shares the context of Cambodia’s labor environment. For the past several months, he explains, factory workers in Cambodia have demonstrated nonviolently for higher wages and improved working conditions. Authorities have responded with violencekilling several protesters, injuring dozens, and locking up activists for months. The workers’ demands of earning a minimum of U.S. $160 per month have not been met. “So they find jobs outside the country, legally or not,” he says.

As Global Voices explains, many Cambodian workers move to Thailand for its $10 per day minimum wage, compared to no fixed wage in Cambodia, where workers earn among the lowest salaries in the region. In late June, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen addressed the crisis publicly for the first time. The Phnom Penh Post quoted him as stating, “Although wages here are lower than what you earn in Thailand, if you compare to fees you spend to get illegally to Thailand, it is not so much less… working in our country is safer.”

More Videos

For more videos of the reverse migration from Thailand, see this video playlist on the Human Rights Channel.

Photo: Video still from Youtube user Sovath Loun of Cambodian migrant workers fleeing Thailand. 

4 thoughts on “Cambodian Migrants Leave Thailand in Droves

  1. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through
    Google, and found that it’s really informative. I am gonna
    watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you
    continue this in future. Many people will be benefited
    from your writing. Cheers!

  2. Dear Madeleine;
    I was putting the wrong website; I never use the website that google assigns to me or share my e-mail with them because I do not have the time and knowledge of simple computer skills.. I’ am trying to link the current situations to yours but I’m not able to. Will you provide me with the instructions on how to start, that will make it easier for me. Thanks. Gb. RC.

  3. Thanks, Human Rights You-Tube Chanel for publish these unforgetful events which we have ever faced before in our history because of the unlawful, corrupted gov. who is in charged of Cambodia over 35yrs. In fact, Khmers only had freedom 5yrs. during our first and the fairest election in the early 1990, then the country has been military over thrown by the co-prime minister, Hun Sen with the help of current Vietnamese government since now, and before; over 30yrs. of their controls. Please, read my website, and VOA in Khmer for more accurate news and current information.

    Now, Khmers have to deal with land evictions, illegally border land post, by illegal immigrants who are benginners act as land investors for 99yrs. least of land….Thanks, for the first time, I have become a part of helping Khmers. I hope other Khmers will continue to do what I have done to save our country, land, homes, forest, and important of all save our democracy and constitution alike… Thanks. Gb. RC.

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