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15 February 2022 - News

A young migrant returnee tells her challenges returning from Thailand

"I felt miserable and worried about my safety and security since I was away from my mother and put in a quarantine room with a dozen unknown individuals,” said 16-year-old migrant returnee, Pov Srey Oun during a phone call with SC staff, while she continues to self-isolate herself at home in Phsar Kandal Commune, Paoy Paet Municipality, Banteay Meanchey Province.                                                                   

Srey Oun dropped out of school due to her family’s financial hardship when she was in grade 6 and left to Thailand with her mother, Pheap Saroeun, in early 2020. Both were employed as gardeners and were responsible for watering plants, trimming, cutting and carrying big trees using heavy gardening equipment on a daily basis. Her father, Kroy Pov, has been working at a seasonal cassava farm in the province to pay off their debts.

Having faced many hard times in Thailand during the Covid-19 pandemic, Srey Oun and her mother decided to return to Cambodia on December 3rd, 2021 through Ou Beichoan border checkpoint. They were required to undergo a Covid-19 rapid test. As Srey Oun was underage, she was not eligible to receive a vaccination in Thailand, while her mother was fortunate to have had two doses and was permitted to return home.

On the same day, Srey Oun was sent to the Kang Var II quarantine centre, which is a local NGO’s office named Lom-Orng Organization, formerly known as Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society.

 Speaking with a troubled tone of voice, Srey Oun revealed she was in fear when she was placed in a crowded room with men, “There were ten people, six females and four males in the room. From the first day, I felt really worried regarding physical and sexual abuse because those men often consumed alcohol at night and in the room,” adding that, she was concerned of running out of sanitation and hygienic supplies that were provided daily by the centre staff. 

In November 24, 2021, with funding support from Save the Children Korea, Save the Children delivered a moderate amount of hygiene kits, risk communications and community engagement kits to Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities. Those kits were handed to migrant children and their families through the project, “Humanitarian assistance to migrant children and families returning to Cambodia during the COVID-19 pandemic (HOME)” on December 7, 2021. 

Srey Oun said she was fortunate to have received these daily essential hygiene kits including soap, alcohol disinfectant, recreation materials, and dignity kits from the project during her time in quarantine. She added that she had carefully wore masks and used hand sanitizers until she was allowed to leave the centre on December 16, 2021.

Kang Va II’s Quarantine Centre Director, Thong Chanrithy said he was truly grateful to the support made by Save the Children Korea, emphasizing that these materials are legitimate needs for migrant returnees. 

“Our authorities always provide migrant returnees with meals three times per day and supply them with mats, blankets, mosquito nets, masks, sanitizers, alcohol disinfectants, and medicines for general illnesses," he said.  

While self-isolating herself at home, Srey Oun said she was able to use the remaining hygiene kits and has planned to sell canned beverages and Cafe beverages at her hometown to earn money in order to support her family.