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Aid Groups Assist Cambodians Fleeing Thailand

Cambodian workers get off a train as they prepare to migrate back to Cambodia at Aranyaprathet train station in Sa Kaew June 15, 2014.
Cambodian non-governmental groups (NGOs) have set up charities and hotlines in an effort to help the continuing stream of Cambodian workers leaving Thailand.

An estimated 200,000 Cambodians have fled Thailand in recent weeks, fearful of a crackdown on illegal workers in the wake of a May 22 coup by the Thai military.

At least six NGOs are working at the border crossing at Poipet, in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, to provide food and other aid to the fleeing workers.

Ya Navuth, executive director of Caram Cambodia, told VOA's Khmer service that his group has established a charity fund and a hotline to assist returning workers.

“We started today, and we are calling for generous persons to contribute in order to share food and some goods to the incoming workers," he said.

Banteay Meanchey Governor Korsum Saroeut said international NGOs, including World Vision and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), are also helping workers return.

“It is smooth now, actually," he said. "We have sorted out food, water, and transportation, but there’s still a problem of toilets for them.”

Up to 400,000 Cambodians were thought to be working in Thailand until the May coup.

Authorities have since sought to quell rumors of violent crackdowns on workers that have spread through the Cambodian community in Thailand.

At the same time, Thai security forces have been forcibly deporting some workers.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.)