Migrating Perils: Covid-19 Restrictions Disparage Cambodian Migrant Workers, Blurring Legal Status Amid Thai Border Closures
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Cambodian migrant workers continue to face challenges as many live in rural areas with high poverty rates, insufficient job opportunities, low crop yields, and high levels of household indebtedness. These push factors force Cambodian families to weigh meeting basic needs against personal risk as households engage in labour migration, mainly in neighbouring Thailand. Border closures worsen an already precarious journey. As formal points of entry closed, informal brokerage markets emerged. Informal border crossings invalidated migrant travel documents, and in the process documented migrants lost their legal status, becoming undocumented. Children frequently accompany migrant parents and engage in caretaking of siblings or paid light work — the majority of whom (working children ages 5-17) have limited to no access to schooling. Economic hardships from pandemic restrictions drove many to journey back to Thailand, despite health risks and exploitive costs for informal border crossings.