BANGKOK — A British government minister urged China to stop sending migrant labourer laborers to Thailand amid concerns over a surge in the death toll at sea and a surge of migrants crossing the border into Cambodia.
“The Government has instructed the Chinese Government to stop hiring migrant workers,” Minister of State for the Overseas Territories James Brokenshire told reporters on Friday.
He said it is a serious matter that requires action by the Chinese government.
China has been facing a growing concern over the influx of migrants and refugees into the country, with the government saying last month that it will spend $30 million to send a humanitarian boat to Cambodia to help with the influx.
A boat carrying 1,000 migrant workers was found dead on the Thai side of the border in the early hours of Monday after crossing into Thailand, according to a Thai coast guard official.
The Thai coastguard said the vessel was carrying about 50 people and had been stopped after a Cambodian official told the Thai authorities that it had a Chinese crew, but there was no confirmation that the vessel had actually been carrying Chinese workers.
Brokenshire said he has instructed HMAS Chatham-Kent to carry out a review of all boats that have crossed into Thailand from Cambodia.
“The British Government has given advice to HMAS CHatham-Knights to review all vessels coming into Thailand.
We have also given instructions that all vessels carrying people to Thailand should stop,” he said.
Brokenham said that there were some “possible reasons” for the Chinese vessel to be intercepted and detained, but that it would be up to Thai authorities to decide what the most appropriate response was.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Brokensville said he had spoken to a senior Chinese official, who told him the Chinese were not intending to hire migrant workers, but instead to work on the construction of a new border crossing.
Migrant workers and refugees have been crossing the Thai border into the Cambodian border town of Sittwe after crossing through Thailand in recent weeks, which is a sign of the growing concern among Thai authorities over the situation.
More than 6,000 migrants have crossed the border since last weekend into Cambodia, according a Thai Coast Guard official.
The number of migrant workers and people crossing the Cambodians border is expected to grow, he said, adding that he did not know if it was related to the influx into Thailand or not.
But Brokensames comments on Friday do not appear to have calmed the debate on whether the Chinese are intentionally trying to smuggle people into Thailand and why Thailand has not stopped the flow of migrants.
There is also no indication that Chinese authorities are stopping migrant workers.
The International Organization for Migration, which monitors the situation on the Cambods border, said that on Friday it had received a number of reports of migrants trying to cross into Thailand but that none of them had been caught.
It also noted that there are a number who have crossed illegally into Thailand with a number that have not been apprehended.
This latest surge of people coming into the border region is an unprecedented number of migrants, said David Knecht, an expert on migration and security at the London School of Economics.
“It is the biggest number of people to come over the border that we have seen in a long time.
There is no evidence of any other country doing anything like this.
It is quite shocking,” he told The Associated Post.
At least 17 migrants have died along the Thai-Cambodian border since Friday, including two in the first 24 hours of the crisis.
Another eight died on Sunday in the southern Chinese town of Banchi, while another 22 died in the southeastern Chinese city of Kunming.
Many of the migrants have been found in makeshift tents or abandoned vehicles, while others have died at the hands of Thai authorities.
Despite the growing number of deaths, Brokenham has said he does not believe that Chinese border authorities are intentionally seeking to smuggles migrants into Thailand as Brokensham did last week.
We have to go on with the lives of these people and they will get through, he told the AP.
If they really want to help, then they have to stop them and stop the violence, he added.
Meanwhile, Thailand has been struggling to stem the flow and number of arrivals into the Thai islands of Phuket and Chonburi as it struggles to cope with a surge last week in deaths at sea from the migrants who have been coming in to reach the country.
On Monday, a Thai fisherman who was found alive after he was found clinging to the back of a fishing boat near the Thai shore near the Cambodi border was named as Chai Shing-yeon, an American citizen who was detained in April.
Officials say that he was not detained in Cambodia,