Families are calling for government intervention as the detention of 85 migrant workers and children without charge — including some as young as 5 — exceeds three months.
Bin Sophoan, an officer for rights group Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey province, said the group was traveling to join relatives working legally in Thailand when the travelers were arrested across the border from Poipet.
“One is 13 years old, three are 14 years old, and one is 5 years old,” Sophoan said.
“The relatives were going afterward to take the children to their parents, but they were arrested on the way,” she said.
Kong Sophat, a resident of Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district, said members of his family as well as neighbors were among those imprisoned in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province.
According to Sophat, a truck carrying 90 Cambodians was stopped by Thai police on April 26. Five of the passengers had legal documents and were released, but the others were taken to Bangkok and detained. After two months, 65 of the 85 detainees were moved to a prison in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district, Sophat said.
He had sent money to his family members to spend in prison to ease their detention, and he was worried about their health, he said.
Dy Thehoya, a senior officer at labor rights group Central, said the prolonged detention of the 85 Cambodians was not normal treatment for undocumented migrants.
Illegal Cambodian migrants might be detained for a weekend — or in some cases up to 40 days — but they would then be released, he said.
The over three-month detention “abuses the law and [is a] serious abuse of human rights too,” Thehoya said.
Thehoya echoed Sophat in calling for the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand to intervene, saying it should “not let Thai authorities mistreat our people like this.”
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann said the embassy had already contacted its Thai counterparts over the case, and was still awaiting a response.
“I have not received additional information. When I get it, I will let you know,” Sophann said.
According to the Labor Ministry, more than 1.1 million Cambodians are working in Thailand, though civil society groups have estimated that the number may be closer to 2 million.
(Translated by Kang Sothear and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)
Correction: Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann’s name was initially misspelled.