Thai Nationals Rescued, Repatriated from Pursat SEZ

2 min read
Barbed wire has been wrapped around a gate closing off trains tracks crossing Poipet’s international border with Thailand. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)
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More than 100 Thai nationals were sent back to Thailand on Wednesday after authorities raided a Pursat province special economic zone, rescuing workers but making no arrests. 

National military police spokesperson Eng Hy said Cambodian and Thai authorities had rescued 103 Thai nationals from a Pursat province special economic zone on Tuesday morning and brought the individuals across the border on Wednesday morning. 

“We have arrested and rescued 103 Thai nationals and handed them over at the Poipet international checkpoint,” he said. 

When asked if any criminal arrests had been made, Hy said there were not, and then said he was busy and ended the call. 

None of the officials interviewed by VOD would say who owned the special economic zone, but there appears to be only one SEZ in Pursat province, the MDS Thmor Da SEZ, which is chaired by Try Pheap and alleged to be the site of online scam companies employing trafficked and abused workers. 

Vouch Oun, director of the Poipet International Border Checkpoint, confirmed the 103 individuals crossed the border, adding there had been a handful of similar handovers in the past but with only a few dozen people.

“There were three or four cases that our police had sent” Thai nationals back in the past, he said. “After our police had found them, they sent them to [Cambodian] immigration police.”

Thmor Da commune police chief Thlaing Moeun and Veal Veng district police chief Theang Leng said their divisions were not involved in the operation.

Puth Ly, Pursat military police commander, declined to comment, referring questions to the national military police spokesperson.

National military police commander Sao Sokha said that the 103 workers had entered Cambodia illegally, and 43 among them had tested positive for Covid-19 after the raid. 

“First of all, they came here illegally,” he said of the Thai nationals, without elaborating about how or why they came to Cambodia.

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