Thailand Allows Stranded Myanmar Migrants to Return

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 19 May 2020

Yangon – Thailand has allowed migrant workers wishing to return to Myanmar to head home despite travel restrictions and a curfew imposed due to COVID-19, according to Myanmar’s Embassy in Bangkok.

On Monday, the Thai authorities agreed for migrant workers to travel back to Myanmar, according to the embassy.

It said on Tuesday that migrants could return from May 22 from Bangkok to Mae Sot with special travel arrangements.

Five buses limited to 21 passengers each and guarded by the Thai police are due to leave Bangkok at 10pm, followed by five more buses at 11pm.

Only 210 passengers can travel per night with bus tickets costing 1,048 baht (45,660 kyats) and luggage limited to 20 kilograms.

The statement said only those registered with Myanmar’s labor attaché office will be allowed to travel.

Migrants based outside Bangkok have to register at the attaché offices to apply for a travel pass from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Those with travel permission must take coaches permitted by the Thai government if they are returning through other border gates, the Bangkok embassy added.

The embassy said those traveling independently would have to avoid the 11pm to 4am curfew.

From March 21 to 30, around 40,000 migrants in Thailand returned to Myanmar through Myawaddy in Karen State and Shan State’s Tachileik border.

In late March, Myanmar urged migrants in Thailand to delay their return for 15 days to allow quarantine capacity to increase.

Thailand has extended its coronavirus state of emergency until May 31. Travel is denied between provinces and a curfew is imposed at night.

Nearly 40,000 migrants from Myanmar who have registered to return home are still stranded in the kingdom, said the Thailand-based Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN).

MWRN chairman U Aung Kyaw told The Irrawaddy on Sunday that most of those looking to return are workers who were sacked because of COVID-19.

“Most were made unemployed without compensation and are waiting to return home,” said U Aung Kyaw.

The authorities in Myanmar said all returnees must stay in quarantine for 21 days.

As of Monday, the government has brought home more than 2,000 nationals stranded in over 10 countries.

Myanmar’s labor attaché in Bangkok was unavailable for further comment on Tuesday.

Before COVID-19, an estimated 4 million migrant workers from Myanmar were working in Thailand.

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