Thailand Steps Up Moei River Patrols Against Illegal Migrants From Myanmar

By The Bangkok Post 31 August 2020

TAK, Thailand—Thai government agencies are combining to step up patrols along the Moei River to prevent illegal migration by job-seekers and others from Myanmar, where COVID-19 is spreading in western Rakhine State.

It is feared illegal border crossers could bring the virus with them and trigger a second wave of COVID-19 in Thailand. The Moei River forms part of the border between Thailand and Myanmar.

Thai agencies involved include Mae Sot immigration and customs, the army’s 4th Infantry Regiment and 35th Ranger Regiment, village defense teams, border patrol police and provincial police from Mae Sot, Mae Ramat, Phop Phra, Umphang and Tha Song Yang districts in Thailand’s Tak province.

Patrols are giving special attention to crossings on the Moei River.

They are also on the watch for the smuggling of drugs and other contraband, including timber, and criminals on the run.

On Friday, Thai health authorities will ask businesses to delay bringing in workers from Myanmar, amid reports of a wave of COVID-19 infections there.

Myanmar previously reported infections among returnees, but community infections have now been reported for the past two weeks. Accumulated COVID-19 cases in Myanmar had risen to 602, Dr. Sophon said.

Rakhine State had prohibited people from leaving their homes from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., he said.

Thailand has a 2,400-kilometer land border with Myanmar, and security along the frontier has been tightened to prevent migrants entering the country illegally, looking for work.

Dr. Sophon said he would seek cooperation from business operators, asking them to refrain from bringing Myanmar workers into the country for the time being, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Thai Interior Permanent Secretary Chatchai Phromlert said on Friday he had ordered the governors of the 10 provinces  bordering Myanmar—Tak, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Kanchanaburi, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Chumphon and Ranong—to tighten security along the border and ensure strict health checks on people arriving through official crossings.

As of Monday morning, Thailand had 3,412 cases of COVID-19 with 58 deaths.

This article first appeared in The Bangkok Post.

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