Labor attaché refutes reports of Myanmar workers arrested at Myawaddy border

A Burma embassy official denied what he said were “rumors” about migrant workers being arrested or left stranded at the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border.

Prior to Thingyan, Thailand announced a New Year’s gift for its large community of migrant workers, declaring that passport-holding laborers could return home for the holidays without having to pay for a visa and without fear of arrest. Typically, workers holding temporary passports are unable to travel outside of the province where they are employed without a letter of permission. The March 14 announcement said the leniency period would extend from April 5 until April 30.

“As far as I know, no one has been left stranded. I heard news about the arrests yesterday so I asked officials from Thai immigration [about it]. They told me that they haven’t arrested anyone for lack of worker documents. Arrests may have been made only for committing crimes,” U Aung Ko Than, a labor attaché at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok told KIC News on April 28.

However, Ko Thar Gyi, managing director of an organization assisting migrant workers in Thailand, said several workers have had issues crossing the border gate, counter to the embassy official’s dismissal.

“We are contacting employers to help some female workers who were stranded because they didn’t have official work permits. I denounce [the labour attaché] for saying that no workers have been left stranded at the border. Migrant workers are currently stranded there,” he said.

He added that dozens of migrant workers faced delays and other issues returning over the Three Pagodas Pass border crossing last week. Some, he said, were denied entry by Thai border officials.

The leniency scheme was under the supervision of the Ministry of Labor. Labour attachés U Moe Aung Khaing, U Naing Min Thu and U Aung Khin Myint were tasked with assisting returning workers from April 14 to 21. Labor attaché U Aung Ko Than took over from April 21 until the end of the month.

According to the Thailand Job Employment Office, over 1.79 million Myanmar migrant workers are officially working in Thailand. The number of undocumented Myanmar workers is thought to number somewhere between 2 and 3 million.

Translated by Thida Linn
Edited by Laignee Barron

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