Oddar Meanchey provincial court charged four men and a woman with human trafficking on Saturday for attempting to illegally smuggle 51 migrant workers into Thailand, officials said Sunday.
About 250,000 migrant workers returned to Cambodia last month after the Thai junta began a crackdown on illegal migrant labor. Despite efforts to send workers back across the border with proper documentation, hundreds of workers are still being caught illegally crossing the border every day.
According to provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Lam Poly, the five accused smugglers were employed by 168 Manpower Supply, one of the more than 40 recruitment agencies enlisted by the government in an effort to return workers to Thailand legally.
“The company name is registered with the government, but the way they operate is illegal,” said Mr. Poly.
The smugglers were arrested on Friday in Oddar Meanchey province, where they were staying at a pagoda with the 51 workers before trying to cross the O’smach International Checkpoint.
“It is obvious and strange that about 50 people came to stay at the pagoda,” said Mr. Poly, noting the pagoda is only 400 meters from the checkpoint.
“They said that they were promised documents to go to work legally in Thailand,” said Mr. Poly. “When we asked them for the legal documents, none of them had documents.”
On Saturday, Yong Sophal, 26, Keo Sina, 27, and Ly Masy, 31, were charged and placed in pretrial detention at Oddar Meanchey provincial prison.
“These three played the role as people collectors,” Mr. Poly said. “They have networks in the provinces, and would go to the provinces where there are people who want to go to work in Thailand.”
Leng Bunthy, 35, and his wife Prak Sengly, 37, who were in charge of placing the workers with employers in Thailand, were also charged and placed in pretrial detention on Saturday.
“We charged them with the unlawful movement of people across the border under article 11 of the antihuman trafficking law,” said deputy provincial prosecutor Sorm Sopheak.
Provincial police chief Men Ly said the five accused were charging each worker $250 to $300 to cross in Thailand for promised jobs.
According to the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking, the five would face seven to 15 years in jail term if found guilty.
Duch Sothearith, president of 168 Manpower Company, said he is not sure if the five accused smugglers were actually working for his company.
“The head office knows nothing about this issue,” he said. “If it is done via the company, we would have legal documents to show the immigration.”
Last month, police in Poipet City arrested Theim Thoeum, 36, for defrauding 22 migrant workers from Kampong Cham province who he promised to take into Thailand.
© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.