Research on the Mass Departure of Cambodian Migrants from Thailand in 2014

In June 2014, a sudden spike in the arrest and deportation of migrant workers in Thailand reportedly led to over 220,000 Cambodian migrants being repatriated or leaving Thailand within just a two-week period. This proved to be one of the largest mass movements of people in Southeast Asia since the 1970s and, in the face of this unprecedented phenomenon, both governmental and non-governmental agencies were struggling to meet the needs of those who returned to Cambodia. In anticipation of an eventual return of these migrants back to Thailand, and a hope that they would do so through a formal channel, both Thailand and Cambodia swiftly introduced a number of policy reforms to make formal migration channels more accessible. MMN and its partner organisations believed it was critical to ensure that these rapidly developing responses to the exodus of Cambodian migrants reflected the voices of migrants as well as their families, and decided to conduct a series of interviews for this purpose. MMN’s research findings and recommendations were presented in the report The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand: Reflections on the Exodus of Cambodian Migrants and Lessons Learnt. The report was launched in December 2014 at an event attended by representatives of the Cambodian government, civil society organisations (CSOs), international non-governmental organisations, and members of the media.

A panel at the launch of the report "The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand", December 2014, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

MMN Project Partners

  • Cambodian Women Crisis Centre, Cambodia 
  • Legal Support for Children and Women, Cambodia
  • Cambodian Women for Peace and Development, Cambodia
  • Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, Cambodia
  • Foundation for AIDS Rights, Thailand

Key Activities

In light of the large mass movements of Cambodian migrant workers, MMN organised an emergency meeting with project partners in Phnom Penh on 24 June 2014. At the meeting, participants shared initial observations, identified urgent issues in need of further investigation, and developed research design and strategies. Based on research parameters decided on during the meeting, project partners conducted interviews with Cambodian migrants who had recently returned or been deported to Cambodia, as well as their families, in four different provinces (Banteay Meachey, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham and Kandal) using semi-structured questionnaires. Various key informants, including government officials, were also interviewed to increase understanding of policy changes and gaps.

As interviews were being carried out in these areas, the situation changed rapidly and a large number of migrant returnees started going back to Thailand. Therefore, MMN decided to modify the work plan in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation by carrying out interviews with those who had returned to Thailand, their employers, and local government officials in Thailand. In Thailand, interviews took place in the provinces of Rayong, Trat and Sa Kaeo. 

Between 11-12 September 2014, project partners convened at a consultation meeting to share research findings and jointly develop recommendations to be submitted to relevant stakeholders, which were then presented in a report entitled The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand: Reflections on the Exodus of Cambodian Migrants and Lessons Learnt.

On 9 December 2014, MMN launched the report The Precarious Status of Migrants in Thailand: Reflections on the Exodus of Cambodian Migrants and Lessons Learnt. The launch was attended by 45 participants, including representatives of the Cambodian government, CSOs, international non-governmental organisations, and the media. During the meeting, MMN project partners shared their research findings and recommendations. This was followed by open discussions regarding necessary interventions to improve the protection of migrant workers during the migration journey. To read the full press release of the report launch, please click here.