Thousands of Myanmar Migrants Detained as Thai Border Remains Closed

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News Desk

More than 2,000 nationals from Myanmar, who illegally crossed the border into Thailand, have been detained so far this month, according to labor rights activists.

Despite tightened border security by the Thai authorities, migrants fleeing from the junta or seeking jobs are crossing each day, mostly from Mon, Karen and Shan states and Tanintharyi Region, U Moe Gyo, the chairman of Joint Action Committee for Burmese Affairs, told The Irrawaddy.

“More than 2,000 people have been detained between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14. Most were detained in Kanchanaburi, bordering Mon State, followed by Prachuap Khiri Khan beside Tanintharyi, Mae Sot adjacent to Karen State and Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai bordering Shan State,” said U Moe Gyo.

Most of them were aged between 18 and 40 and they paid 16,000 to 28,000 baht (900,000-1.5 million kyats) to cross the border, which is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“People cannot wait until the border reopens. They are using agents instead,” said U Moe Gyo.

Labor rights groups estimate that 80 percent of those who illegally cross the border are job seekers who have been approved to work in Thailand under a bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU).

Migrant rights activist U Min Oo of the Foundation for Education and Development said: “The MoU workers can no longer wait after they have spent large sums [on paperwork]. Another group is migrants who have already been working in Thailand and returned to Myanmar. They can’t wait until the border officially opens and they paid agents to help them cross.

“There are few jobs in Myanmar. Some don’t feel safe in Myanmar because of the fighting,” he added.

According to the Federation of Thai Industries, Thailand needs around 800,000 migrant workers for manufacturing, tourism and other jobs. To address the labor shortages, the Thai government signed MoUs with Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos allowing workers to enter.

But coronavirus restrictions have delayed the process.

Labor rights activists estimate that there are more than 3 million migrants from Myanmar in Thailand.

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