Burma Closes Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge to Foreigners – Residents Worry Unofficial Crossings Still Operating
The Burma government has closed its Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge crossing to foreigners in an attempt to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19). The Burma government has said the border is closed to all foreigners with the exemption of Thai and Myanmar citizens.
U Than Shwe, an immigration officer and the deputy in-charge of the Myawaddy-Mae Sot No.1 Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge said they were ordered by their senior officer to close the border to foreigners from third countries.
“We were told that a President Office’s order will be issued regarding the closure of the bridge,” U Than Shwe said. “We are ordered to stop all foreigners from coming in and out [of Myanmar], except for Thai and Myanmar citizens.”
Local residents are concerned as they can see many foreigners, including Chinese nationals, crossing the Friendship Bridge on a daily basis and using unofficial boat crossings along the Moei River that separates Thailand and Myanmar.
A Myawaddy Town resident, (who asked not to be named) spoke to Karen News about her concerns about Covid-2019 and the constant flow of Chinese nationals crossing the border since the initial outbreak was reported back in January 2020.
“I think stopping foreigners from crossing the Bridge is not enough. We see many Chinese nationals crossing into Myanmar using the ‘unofficial’ boat crossing. I think these [underground crossings] need to be stopped for a period of time.”
Rumors circulating on social media about the closure of all official and unofficial crossing points between the two countries has caused panic among migrant communities who need to go back and forth for their work.
U Moe Kyo, chairperson of the Joint Action Committee for Burmese Affairs (JACBA) said workers should rely on official media groups for their information.
“The border crossing is an important part of the migrant workers’ life to make their living – both official and unofficial crossings. So, workers should not believe everything they see on social media, like Facebook, they should confirm information with official media agencies.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed Covid-2019 as a pandemic disease and as of March 19, there are, globally 207,860 cases confirmed with 8,657 deaths in 166 countries.
Although national media report of deaths of Covid-19 among suspected patients, Burma has yet to report any official cases or deaths – Thailand confirmed it had 212 cases and one death.