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Misconceptions of migration : contemporary Cambodian migration into Thailand Bullock, Shannon Marie

Abstract

With an estimated 88,000 Khmer migrants subject to situations of exploitation in Thailand's unskilled labour market, cross-border migration from Cambodia into Thailand is becoming an increasingly serious issue. Governments, 'nongovernmental organizations and international organizations are focusing their efforts on preventing cross-border migration into Thailand, but, despite their efforts, policies and programmes have failed to produce the desired ) result - a decline in illegal migration, trafficking, and smuggling between these two countries. I would argue that migration from Cambodia into Thailand is not preventable through policy and programmatic interventions. By using a tri-causal migration framework, based on push, pull, and network factors, to explain the causes of migration between these two countries, it becomes evident that pull factors play the greatest role in motivating Khmer migrants to search for employment in Thailand, but these factors are related to structural conditions reflective of the country's greater level of development - conditions that cannot be altered through intervention. Relevant actors--have primarily tried to prevent migration by addressing push and network factors, but this approach addresses global misconceptions of migration, trafficking and smuggling that are not reflective of current migration dynamics between Cambodia and Thailand. Misconceptions that poverty is the root cause of migration, trafficking is a separate issue from other forms of migration, and migration is preventable have detracted actors from addressing the more pertinent issue - the issue of migrant exploitation. Migrant exploitation stems from the complex political, economic and cultural factors that shape Thailand's current migration policies. While there is no simple solution for Thailand's migration management problems, greater efforts should be made to create legal migration channels that protect Khmer workers from labour exploitation, while providing Thai employers with more legitimate access to low-cost labour supplies in the region.

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