Thousands Pour Back Through Reopened Thai Border

2 min read
Provincial officials and frontline workers wait in a tent for 3rd vaccine doses ahead of the border reopening, in a photo posted to the Banteay Meanchey Administration’s Facebook page on August 9, 2021.

Cambodian returnees from Thailand have surged since the reopening of borders on Friday, local officials said, with migrants trucked in from checkpoints to expanded quarantine centers.

While community Covid-19 infections have remained largely stable, imported cases have bumped up again since the weekend, with the country reporting 598, 588 and 593 total cases over the past three days. Infections were below 500 for the prior four days.

Oddar Meanchey deputy provincial governor Dy Rado said on Monday that the province saw 71 arrivals on Friday, 84 on Saturday, then more than 600 on Sunday and over 400 today.

The province had found more than 200 positive with Covid-19 over those four days, he added.

“Our brothers and sisters are returning because the situation in Thailand is seeing a wide spread of Covid-19 almost everywhere, so they are concerned about their safety, and their workplaces have been shut down,” Rado said.

Banteay Meanchey deputy governor Ly Sary could not be reached on Monday, but said over the weekend that provincial authorities had received a total of 1,233 returnees on Friday and Saturday since the reopening of borders.

A total of 4,548 were in quarantine as of the weekend, he added.

Battambang deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith said his province had seen more than 400 returnees.

Chuon Lyna, a migrant worker who returned through Banteay Meanchey’s O’Bei Choan gate on Friday, said he had tested positive for Covid-19 and came back to Cambodia to be vaccinated.

Local authorities had taken good care of him since his return, he said. “We have enough provisions like mats, pillows, [mosquito] nets … and when anyone wants to buy anything, they can ask their relatives to buy it for them. They regularly check up on people’s health, and when people get sick, they give medicine and they give milk and desserts. We are happy with it.”

Dy Thehoya, program officer at labor rights group Central, said the trucking in of returnees from the border was welcome to prevent wider contact, but both the trucks and quarantine centers seemed more crowded than advisable.

“Without being able to practice individual and social distancing, we think that the government should consider and pay close attention to it,” Thehoya said.

Cambodian workers in Thailand have spoken of daily struggles due to the neighboring country’s Delta outbreak, which has shuttered factories and caused widespread joblessness for migrants.

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