Burmese migrant workers and labor rights activists have urged both Burma and Thai governments to assist migrant workers who are having difficulties in buying bus tickets to return back to Thailand after the Thingyan Festival.
Many Burmese migrant workers are currently spending the night near Myawaddy-Mae Sot border checkpoint at the Thai-Myanmar border due to soaring bus ticket prices and difficulties in buying the bus tickets.
U Moe Gyo, chair of the Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA), urged both governments to assist the migrant workers in solving their difficulties and providing a safe transportation.
“A bus ticket normally costs only Bt 233. Now, it costs Bt 700. A double-decker bus ticket cost Bt 373 [before], but now it costs Bt 1,000. The lowest price for VIP bus ticket, which cost Bt 580, is Bt 1,200. A van ticket normally cost Bt 500 but we have to pay at least Bt 800 now. The charges differ depending on the brokers. Those who have difficulties in buying the bus tickets are waiting [at the border checkpoint] by paying Bt 100 per night, Bt 20 for taking a bath and charging their mobile phones, and Bt 5 for using the toilet,” he said.
U Moe Gyo advised the migrant workers to travel to Tak, which is 90 km from the Mae Sot bridge, and take the buses to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lampang as the buses arrive every 30 minutes from these cities.
According to an announcement made by the Thai Cabinet on March 27, migrant workers holding work visas (VISA NON-LA) and pink cards have been allowed to return home for the Thingyan Festival from April 5 to 30 without being arrested nor charged with visa fees and general fees. Since many migrant workers are returning back to Thailand before the end of the month, they are facing difficulties due to a few number of buses and exploitation of the brokers.
“I went back to Myanmar on the 9th (April 9) and came back on the 17th (April 17) because I knew that we will face such kind of difficulties during Thingyan so I went back early. The number of returning workers have been increasing so there is exploitation and some people have raised the bus ticket prices,” Nan Sant Kalain, who is working in Bangkok, told Karen News.
Burmese migrant workers have been involved in three bus crashes within two months after two buses transporting the migrant workers crashed while the migrant workers were on their way to work in Thailand under the MOU (memorandum of understanding) system and a van carrying the migrant workers crashed while they were returning back to Burma for the Thingyan Festival. Around 100 migrant workers have been killed and injured in these bus crashes.
Over three million Burmese migrant workers are working in Thailand and over two million workers have official documents, according to labor rights activists.