Many residents of Burma’s Shan State, out of work amid a lockdown, attempted to illegally cross the border in June seeking employment in Thailand.
Sai Nom Twe, from Burmese Migrant Workers Assistance Committee based in Mae Sai, told SHAN that authorities caught almost 100 people who crossed the river from Tachilek into the northern Thai town.
No-one has faced serious penalties for crossing the border illegally, he says, explaining many were sent to quarantine facilities for twenty-one days.
The Thai-Burma border has been closed since March 23 to curb the spread of COVID-19, with the exception of government-facilitated group returns of migrant workers.
A Tachilek resident says many people have been out of work for the last three months. “They thought they could easily enter Thailand. Actually, it’s really hard at this moment.”
Thai authorities installed barbed wire fencing along the river bank to deter the illegal crossings.
Chan Myae Saw, a GAD officer for Tachilek Township, says that while legal action is being taken against anyone crossing the border illegally, in most cases the punishment has been small.
Some online sites are offering to send people to Thailand for 3,000 (US$96) Thai baht a head, according to a civil society organization in Tachilek.
Sai Oo, who exports products between the two countries, says on July 8 the Thai government opened the Nar Moon border gate in Mae Hong Son Province for the transportation of goods.
There’s still no word when the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge between Tachilek and Mae Sai and the other border gates between the countries will reopen for travellers.