Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar to Jail Illegal Returnees Amid COVID-19 Surge

By Lei Lei 28 August 2020

Yangon — Myanmar’s Tanintharyi regional government says legal action will be taken against those who illegally return to its border town Kawthaung from Thailand and Malaysia as well as those who transport or harbor them.

Legal action will be taken under the Communicable Diseases Law and Immigration Act, said regional immigration and human resources minister U Kyaw Min.

The regional government issued an order on Aug. 14, requiring returnees to enter Kawthaung through four official gates.

The regional government has detained 70 people who illegally entered Kawthaung from Thailand and Malaysia so far this month.

“As far as I know, 70 people have been detained and they are being questioned. The Communicable Disease Law will be applied to those who returned illegally before Aug. 14. Both laws will be applied against them after we made the official announcement on Aug. 14,” the minister told The Irrawaddy.

Migrant workers have been returning from Thailand and Malaysia with many losing their jobs because of COVID-19.

According to returning migrants, they have to pay 2,000 to 2,500 Thai baht (86,000-107,000 kyats) to middlemen for transport from Thailand to the Kawthaung border. Migrants from Malaysia are charged 2,000 to 25,000 ringgit (640,000 million to 8 million kyats) to return via Thailand to Kawthaung.

The illegal returnees traveled either by road or water and arrived at the nearest border town, Kawthaung, the southernmost point in Myanmar.

The regional government said it will keep the illegal returnees in quarantine for 21 days and then take nasal swabs before initiating legal proceedings against them.

Ko Moe Wai, in charge of the Migrant Education Center in Kawthaung, said: “When they returned, quarantine centers were full and could not accept them. So they contacted middlemen and entered illegally.”

Kawthaung residents have expressed concerns because of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Myanmar and the fact that a new strain of virus appears to be more contagious.

The illegal returnees face three months to three years in prison under the Immigration Act and one month in prison for failure to report to the health authorities.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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