As many as 225,000 undocumented Cambodian workers in Thailand rushed back into Cambodia, bringing little in the way of possessions but many fearful accounts of raids on factories and dormitories, interment, and shootings by Thai military police. Thai authorities repeatedly denied an ongoing crackdown on migrant labor, yet Cambodian workers reported Thai soldiers holding migrants at detention centers and demanding bribes amounting up to $66 for transit to the border. Between June 13-15, as many as 80,000 Cambodian migrant laborers - many employed in the garment, manufacturing, and construction industries - passed through Poipet, just one of six border crossings on the Cambodian-Thai border.
But hardship will not end at the border checkpoint for Cambodian migrants. Many are returning to the poorest provinces in the country, to communities that relied on the remittances to support extended families. It is likely many migrants not be welcomed with open arms back to regions already suffering a scarcity of basic resources - employment, healthcarework, even food and viable water - that first sent them in search of higher wages. It is no surprise that, even as they await military escorts back to their homes and families, migrants talk of returning to Thailand - many are still indebted to brokers who arranged their passage to Thailand - and over the next 6 months, as many as 700,000 Cambodian migrant workers will register with the new Thai foreign-labor regime. Yet for now, they willingly choose the insecurities of poverty, deprivation, and even homelessness over another day of uncertainty for their very safety under the Thai junta.