Myanmar workers stream back to Thailand

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Tue Dec 21 05:44:20 MST 1999



20 December 1999
Myanmar workers stream back to Thailand
MAE SOT, Thailand: Myanmar immigrants deported from northern Thailand are
streaming back, despite continuing raids by Thai authorities on factories
harbouring illegal laborers.
Police Lt. Gen. Sorapol Payoongveeranoi, deputy of immigration police in the
Thai border town of Mae Sot, said some 22,000 Myanmar workers had been
repatriated at that checkpoint since a crackdown began in early November,
but that thousands had come back.
"At the present, we allow Myanmar nationals to stay in Thailand for only one
day. However, thousands of them illegally stay overnight," he said. Around
4,000 Myanmar workers who have crossed back into Thailand are now employed
again in factories and farms around Mae Sot, said a prominent local
businessman, who did not want to be named.
In the past, factories and farms in the district employed over 50,000
Myanmar workers. Before the crackdown, up to one million illegal immigrants
stayed in Thailand, which wants to cap the number of workers from its poor
neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia at only 106,000 for the next two years.
Efforts in November to send workers back to Myanmar were complicated by the
closure of the long Thai-Myanmar border by Yangon's generals after
pro-democrat rebels raided the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, was reluctant to take the workers back and
both countries faced criticism from human rights groups for their treatment
of the migrants.
Now restrictions have eased. Residents in Mae Sot, which lies 370 km (230
miles) northwest of Bangkok, said about 200 migrants cross the frontier from
Myanmar every day.
Many carry clothes and belongings, indicating they plan to stay for a while.
Some have border passes and arrive by foot over the Thai-Myanmar Friendship
Bridge. Others bribe border Thai and Myanmar authorities and sneak over the
frontier at other points illegally.
"The economic situation is very bad in Burma," said one migrant, Tin Hla, a
father of five. "There's no chance to earn money to feed my family, so I
come to Thailand." (Associated Press)
 For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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