Myawaddy Friendship Bridge Remains Shut on Burma Side – Arrests of Undocumented Migrants Crossing Border Continue to Rise

Burmese workers groups said arrests of migrant workers entering Thailand illegally from along the Myawaddy border area continue to rise daily as the Myawaddy-Mae Sot Friendship Bridge at the Thai-Burma border is still to reopen.

Even though Thailand announced its Thai-Burma border gates would reopen on May 1, only about 1,000 people have been allowed to enter through the Myawaddy Friendship Bridge No. 2 under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries.

Since the border bridge officially remains closed, hundreds of people are being arrested daily. A migrant worker activist said most Burmese workers entering Thailand illegally were arrested by the Thai Border Guards and police.

The activist said, “Illegal border routes are there every day. Almost 10,000 people have been arrested and deported since the beginning of the year, people are still entering Thailand. If they are not arrested, they can reach their work destination. They try to get legal documents from brokers if they are working. The cost of entering under the MOU is not much different from what it costs to enter illegally. If they pay a fast fee they can enter Thailand quickly. This is how they [brokers] gather people.”

A labor activist based in Mae Sot warned migrant workers not to make more trouble for themselves when the border bridges between the two countries had not been officially opened yet.

“The opening and closing of the bridge will allow people to enter Thailand only as many as has been negotiated. So, it remains uncertain. Agent [brokers] companies are hustling to get people on their lists. If Burmese workers want to work in Thailand, I recommend they are certain they have connections.”

Migrant workers who previously entered Thailand to work said Burmese workers had to pay between 23,000 and 30,000 Thai baht a person to get to their work destinations in Bangkok. The demand for workers in factories in Thailand is high.

A worker who returned to Burma during the Covid-19 pandemic said, “The MoU is based on contracts. You can’t change jobs even if you don’t like your work. Agents recruit with a different job title and description, and when you arrive there, it would be a different job to that agreed to. Outside [without a contract], you can work as day labor anywhere you want. Whether it is through a MoU or through the illegal routes, there are pros and cons with both. Even when the bridges are opened, there will still be illegal routes.”

Even though the Myawaddy Friendship Bridge No.1 is being prepared daily for its official reopening at Mae Sot, there has been no announcement, directives or signs from the military-appointed State Administration Council staff when its side of the border will open.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button