Myanmar Migrants in Thailand Discouraged From New Year Homecoming Amid Covid-19 Concerns

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 16 March 2020

Yangon – The Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok has urged migrant workers in Thailand not to return home for the weeklong Thingyan festival in April to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Myanmar’s Thingyan water festival starts in the second week of April.

An estimated 4 million migrants from Myanmar work in Thailand.

Several hundred thousand migrants return to Myanmar each April during Thailand’s parallel Songkran new year festival.

To contain the spread of Covid-19, the Thai government has abolished its free re-entry permits for Thingyan, the embassy said.

Returning workers will have to pay 1,000 baht (44,000 kyats) for a re-entry permit.

“Thailand does not want to let workers return home,” Myanmar’s labor attaché U Wai Linn Maung told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Thailand’s Ministry of Industry also said migrant workers who went home must report to their employers when they returned to Thailand and endure 14 days of quarantine without working.

Globally, there are now more than 153,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 5,730 people have died with the virus, although most had preexisting health conditions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thailand has reported 75 cases and one coronavirus death.

No migrant from Myanmar has tested positive, said U Wai Linn Maung.

U Aung Kyaw, chairman of the Migrant Worker Rights Network in Thailand, told The Irrawaddy that migrants from Myanmar working in Thai factories were well-trained in preventing the virus from spreading.

“We would like to urge workers to respect and obey the instructions by governments concerning the virus,” said U Aung Kyaw.

Around 20,000 of migrants from Myanmar arrive in Thailand each month under bilateral labor agreements.

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