Seasonal Migrants Fired From Thai Durian Factory

2 min read
Cambodian migrant workers (VOD)
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Dozens of undocumented Cambodian migrant workers have been dismissed from a Thai dried-durian factory after being brought there by job brokers, leaving them in a vulnerable state in an incident that underscores the risks of ongoing illegal migration.

Illegal border crossings were on the rise until land borders reopened in May, and undocumented migrants in seasonal work are being left in a precarious state as jobs come and go.

Ruk Chanthy, 31, a Cambodian migrant, said he had paid almost $300 to be taken across the border at night through a forest and stream alongside about 20 others. He paid another 1,000 baht, or about $30, before he could start work at the Sunshine International durian factory in Thailand’s Chon Buri province, he said.

Undocumented migrants worked only night shifts and were not allowed to leave the factory premises, he said.

Another worker, who asked to not be named out of safety concerns, said she had paid a similar to cross the border and work at Sunshine International in Chon Buri, but after three months she was fired and was warned about how she was undocumented.

“I left quickly and took my stuff as I was scared the police would arrest me,” she said. But she had found a new job at a construction site, where her employer was in the process of getting her a passport and legal documentation, she said.

Chanthy said he too was fired from Sunshine International, and that he had also found work at a construction site and was getting legal documentation.

He said he had felt that he had no choice but to take the risk and leave Cambodia to find work. “If I had money I wouldn’t come here. … I am poor, [struggling] just to find food for the day so I decided to come here. I came here illegally and borrowed money too. I risked my life to come here.”

Leong Sophon, project officer for Central, said about 40 Cambodian and 100 Burmese workers were dismissed on June 25 from the Sunshine International in Chon Buri as the durian season came to an end.

The workers had been brought to work at the factory by a broker, and they were easily dismissed due to their lack of documentation when the seasonal work ran out, he said.

“They work for a month or two, and later they are dismissed and told … they need to leave because they are illegal,” Sophon said, adding that the brokers may have promised them passports and legal documentation as part of the border-crossing fee.

But because they were there illegally, they were unlikely to be able to receive any compensation, he said. “Once they don’t need them anymore, they will be accused,” he said.

Central was now helping the workers process legal documentation and find other work, Sophon said.

The NGO also told of a similar case in May of 38 Cambodian workers being cheated by brokers who had promised them jobs and visas to work at a bakery in Chon Buri.

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