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Legal Cambodians May Return, Says Thailand

Cambodian workers wait for their documents to be processed at the Aranyaprathet police station as they prepare to move back to Cambodia, in Sa Kaew, Thailand, June 15, 2014.
Thai officials said Tuesday they will take back Cambodian workers who re-enter the country legally.

The statement follows a mass exodus in recent weeks of tens of thousands of Cambodians amid rumors of a crackdown on undocumented workers.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry, told VOA's Khmer service that Thai authorities will allow workers to re-enter if their papers are in order.

“Thailand has suggested that Cambodian laborers who have already returned to Cambodia and wish to come back to work in Thailand must come legally," he said. "They still accept [the workers]; they want them all to be legal to avoid human trafficking and labor exploitation.”

Nearly 200,000 Cambodians are believed to have left Thailand since the May 22 coup in Bangkok.

Cambodia's ambassador in Bangkok, Eat Sophea, met Tuesday with a senior Thai Foreign Ministry official to discuss ways of ending rumors about a crackdown or violence against Cambodian workers.

Sophea said they need "to work closely together to allay fear among the Cambodian laborers in Thailand that it is not the policy of the current administration to crack down on laborers regardless of their [legal] status."

Both sides have agreed to establish a hotline to deal with the problem.

Joe Lowry, a regional representative for the International Organization for Migration, told VOA Khmer Tuesday there are other migrants in Thailand, but the Cambodians are the only ones leaving in large numbers.

“We have not heard of any large-scale or even small-scale movement of migrant workers from Myanmar or Laos,” he said. “At the moment, the main mass movement appears to be among Cambodians.”

More than 400,000 Cambodians were thought to be working in Thailand before the coup took place.

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