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“We Got in Line And Handed Them The Money,”Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]

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US migrants
The Border Patrol says that in the last year, it’s stopped roughly 3,100 adults and children fraudulently posing as families so they can be released into the U.S. quickly rather than face detention or rapid deportation. VOA

Thousands of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have flocked to the border along Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces to return home for the Khmer New Year holiday. But many of the migrants say that before being allowed to return to Cambodia, they had to bribe both Thai and Cambodian border police.

The three-day holiday, running from Apr. 14-16, is the most important holiday in the country, and it is customary for Cambodians to return to their hometowns.

“We workers are not educated and we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to return. We didn’t want any problems, so we just paid the officials,” said migrant worker Heng Chanhieng, in an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service Tuesday.

He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments.

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We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money, Pixabay

Another migrant, Lon Samnang, said he believes the Thai and Cambodian officers are in league with each other, colluding to extort the workers during the holiday season. He said that the officials demanded they put away their cellphones while collecting the money because they were afraid their pictures would be taken.

“If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]” he said.

The migrant said he had to wait five hours before the police would even allow them to leave the border checkpoints.

Neth Phirum, meanwhile said police collected $10 from him during his return trip.

“We got in line and handed them the money,” he said, adding, “Nobody knows where that money went [or what it is for].”

Sok Kun, a Kamrieng immigration police officer denied that either the Thai or Cambodian police were taking bribes. He said the money was given to them voluntarily after the officials helped the migrants cross the border in an organized, timely manner.

“The money was their way of saying thanks,” he said.

The same situation was experienced by workers at the Poipet checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s Ou Chrov district.

Keo Soveacha said Wednesday that after he offered to pay a bribe, the Cambodian and Thai police split the proceeds.

“I wanted to speed up the process, so I said ‘I have $13,’” he said.

Dy Thehoya, a program officer for the Phnom Penh-based Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said he wants the government to stop the yearly extortion of the thousands of migrants returning home.

“We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money,” he said.

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He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments. Pixabay

Heang Kimsoeun, a social worker, filed a complaint Thursday to Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, asking them to investigate corruption along the border. The complaint said workers are made to pay $10-$11 to get through border checkpoints. He said that those responsible for the corruption should be brought to justice.

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“What are [the police] doing with that money? This is illegal,” he said.

RFA attempted to contact Thai officials for comment. The deputy immigration chief declined to answer any questions, whereas the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received questions but did not reply. (RFA)

Next Story

Union Environment Ministry Rolling out Anti-pollution Measures for Delhi NCR region

Pointing out the need for fully implementing the anti-pollution measures, he said that errant officials and those violating norms will be fined. He said the Environment Ministry and the CPCB are monitoring the situation and coordinating with the states on a daily basis

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The country is affected by high levels of air pollution, both ambient and indoors. Pixabay

The Union Environment Ministry and the states in the Delhi NCR region have agreed on a special campaign for rolling out anti-pollution measures, including taking action against negligent officials.

Environment Secretary C.K. Mishra said that the previous instructions of the Ministry, and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been reviewed and the instructions in the recent Supreme Court order have been collated into a roadmap and these will be implemented for the next 15 days. The best measures out of these will be used till the end of December on a sustained basis, he added.

After review meeting with officials of the states in the region – Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan – it was decided that negligent officials who are not able to curb pollution will be punished.

Odd-Even scheme
In spite of Odd-Even vehicle rationing scheme, pollution has reached a severe level. Pixabay

“Deliberate omission and negligence will not be tolerated. Accountability will be fixed on officials. Government will intensify its crackdown on those violating anti-pollution norms,” Mishra said.

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Pointing out the need for fully implementing the anti-pollution measures, he said that errant officials and those violating norms will be fined. He said the Environment Ministry and the CPCB are monitoring the situation and coordinating with the states on a daily basis.

He said that there has been a spate of bad meteorology in Delhi NCR due to which pollution spiked, adding that meteorology plays an important role in pollution due to Delhi’s geographical location. “We cannot change the meteorology, what we can do is to bring the level of pollutants down by taking effective measures,” Mishra said. (IANS)