Hun Sen not concerned Cambodian workers will be forced from Thailand

RFA Khmer
Hun Sen not concerned Cambodian workers will be forced from Thailand Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian attend a groundbreaking ceremony for an expressway in Phnom Penh, June 7, 2023.
Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said he was reassured after seeing a statement from Thailand’s Move Forward Party that said it would not expel migrant workers if it forms a government.

His statement came days after he expressed worry on Sunday that a new Thai government would enact policies jeopardizing the status of migrant workers from neighboring countries.

“This policy will not be supported by Cambodia and Laos,” he said. “Cambodia doesn’t have much, but I want to leave a message: ‘Please watch out.’ I don’t want to advise Thai politicians but please watch out.”

Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor has said that at least 1.2 million Cambodians are working in Thailand. 

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Migrant construction workers travel in the back of a crew cab in Bangkok, May 25, 2020. [Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP]

Move Forward, the top vote-getting party in Thailand’s May 14 election, denied it has a policy to repatriate migrant workers. 

“The party’s stance is to protect the welfare and labor rights of all workers in Thailand, regardless of their nationalities,” it said in a statement on Thursday. “The Move Forward Party recognizes the importance of the contribution made by the migrant workforce to the economic and social development of Thailand.” 

Move Forward and Pheu Thai – Thailand’s two largest opposition parties – dealt a resounding defeat to the country’s pro-military establishment in last month’s election. But an alliance of eight parties remains short of the 376 seats required to govern in Thailand’s 750-seat bicameral legislature and no new government has been formed.

Thai economy’s need for migrant workers

On Thursday, Hun Sen said he welcomed the Move Forward statement. 

“So now we don’t have any concerns that the workers will leave Thailand,” he said during a public event with thousands of garment factory workers in Kampong Chhnang province. 

But Sou Piseth, a migrant worker in Thailand, speculated that Hun Sen was making the statements to gain votes ahead of Cambodia’s July 23 elections. He pointed out that Hun Sen’s government did not do anything to help workers who were stuck in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Pheu Thai Party leader Chonlanan Srikaew (left) and Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat respond to supporters in Bangkok following the first meeting to discuss forming a coalition government, May 17, 2023. [Sakchai Lalit/AP]

Dy The Hoya, migration program director at the Phnom Penh-based Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), also said he was not worried about Thailand sending thousands of Cambodians back across the border.

“Thailand won’t expel workers because they benefit from them as well,” he said.  

In its statement, Move Forward said it would like to “expand and improve regular pathways” for migrant workers and ensure those pathways “are free from extortion, coercion, or other forms of exploitation.” 


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