Dozens of Myanmar Migrant Workers in Mae Sot Detained by Thai Police

By The Irrawaddy 24 May 2023

Dozens of Myanmar migrant workers have been arrested in police raids on factories in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, home to a large community of Myanmar nationals.

As of Monday, Thai authorities including the police force, border patrol police, traffic police and immigration officials are conducting surprise checks on roads and are also raiding small factories where Myanmar migrant workers are working, said U Moe Gyo, chairman of the Mae Sot-based Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA).

More than 70 undocumented Myanmar migrant workers were arrested on Monday alone, according to labor rights activists.

Another 15 Myanmar migrant workers were arrested in a village on Tuesday.

There were security checks during Thailand’s general election from May 11-17, but they were not rigorous. Random raids were carried out after weapons were found on May 14 in a house in Mae Sot’s Mae Pa neighborhood, and a Myanmar woman and two Thai nationals were arrested.

Tight checks will be reportedly carried out until May 26, and political activists have warned Myanmar nationals who are sheltering in Mae Sot from Myanmar’s military regime.

“Myanmar people living in hostels for migrant workers should be cautious. In some cases, police have searched houses. They are also making arrests near the market,” said a Myanmar expatriate living in Mae Sot.

Some of those detained have been released after their employers paid the immigration office around 5,000 baht (US$144) per person to free them.

Smaller factories that employ undocumented Myanmar workers have temporarily closed and sent their workers back to Myanmar, said a Mae Sot resident.

On May 1, Mae Sot police arrested two Myanmar men who were found carrying two firearms while riding a motorbike.

Labor activist Ma Thuzar from the Yaung Chi Oo Workers’ Association said: “People must exercise caution all the time. They must learn the rules and regulations of Thailand. They should avoid going outside and gathering if the new registration program has not yet reached their areas.”

Labor rights activists have also called for Myanmar people taking refuge in Mae Sot for political reasons to exercise caution if they are working for the revolution inside Myanmar.

There has been a rise in the number of Myanmar people living in Mae Sot since the 2021 coup, with around 200,000 Myanmar citizens now resident there, according to JACBA.