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Early October's Pchum Ben vacations may see another surge of Cambodian migrant laborers return.

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In mid-August, Cambodian migrant workers in quarantine camps and border testing regions told Khmer Times that there could be a flood of Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand to Cambodia to celebrate the Pchum Ben holiday, which falls on October 5–7.

Many Cambodians are detained in outlying districts in Thailand, according to personnel at the holding area, because internal regulations, poverty, and lack of ability to go to the border, as well as the fear of the 21-day quarantine, have discouraged them.


“However, they were making plans to return to Cambodia through illegal rat holes, attempting to elude security forces and border patrols on both sides of the border, and attempting to find their way home using pre-arranged transportation waiting at designated locations rather than relying on private taxis and buses.


“More than 1.5 million Cambodians remain in Thailand (their estimate; CENTRAL thinks two million). “Many of them have no work, and those who do have jobs are afraid of leaving because they want to make sure their positions are secure when they return to Thailand,” said one returnee, Srey Ni, 36.


She went on to say that they want to return for the Pchum Ben holidays because they missed the Khmer New Year owing to border restrictions and lockdowns.


“Pchum Ben is the last remaining event that involves paying homage to ancestors and family reunions since they mourn their families while their families back home in Cambodia miss their offspring, some of whom have married and have babies,” said Hang Sokheng, a 28-year-old returnee.


Cambodia frequently warns, if not begs, migrant workers in Thailand not to come home for holidays like Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben, as the sudden surge has wreaked havoc on border counties and home provinces.


Only rigorous screening in the home provinces of migrant workers and their families prevented a COVID-19 outbreak among migrant workers and their families.


Anyone returning today may not be able to make it in time to celebrate the Pchum Ben celebration due to the three-week or 21-day quarantine and the classification of all returning migrant workers as Delta variant infected with the Sars-cov-2 virus.


Religious leaders and monks at pagodas in various high-risk provinces were engaged to gather feedback on ways to keep worshippers safe, and to ensure they understood how their promotion of preventive health measures can protect their communities, in preparation for Pchum Ben, a major religious holiday in Cambodia.


“Leaders in each province have implemented COVID-19 preventative strategies in novel ways to their local context,” stated World Health Organization official Dr Li Ailan (WHO).


“It's inspiring to see how they've met this challenge while continuing to provide safe and necessary health services including vaccination, prenatal screening, and the diagnosis, treatment, and management of a wide range of diseases.”


“Everyone is at risk as long as the virus is circulating anywhere—in any town, region, or country,” she continued. Preparation is always beneficial. Strengthening the health-care system will benefit us both now and in the future.”

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