About 100,000 Myanmar migrant workers are waiting to return to Thailand as the government is urged to allow them in but regulate their arrival.
The news came during a seminar to mark International Migrants Day hosted by Mae Fa Luang University’s School of Social Innovation in Chiang Rai.
Suebsakun Kidnukorn, an academic with the university’s area-based social innovation research centre, said there are about 24,000 registered migrant workers in Chiang Rai, excluding children, the elderly and undocumented workers.
The Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) pledged to adhere to transparency and public participation in deciding the future of the controversial Chana industrial complex in Songkhla province.
Mr Kidnukorn said migrant workers have played an important part in developing Chiang Rai’s economy, adding many are now having a hard time crossing the border due to COVID-19 restrictions.
As a result, many workers are left stranded along the border, he said, adding the civil sector has stepped in to help stranded Myanmar and Thai migrant workers on both sides.
Adisorn Koetmongkol, the coordinator of the Migrant Working Group, said the government has not yet allowed migrant workers who had travelled home to return to Thailand.
This prompted many migrant workers, particularly from Myanmar, to try entering the kingdom by sneaking across the border, Mr Koetmongkol said.
The pandemic situation in Myanmar has remained severe, and many workers have not been able to find a job, he said.
Even though the military has stepped up border surveillance to prevent illegal entry via natural passages, the situation is still worrying, Mr Koetmongkol noted.
Instead of seeing them sneak back across the border, the government should allow them to come but regulate their arrival, adding about 100,000 migrant workers from Myanmar are waiting to return to Thailand.
Their flow could be controlled with so many allowed in at a time, and subject to COVID-19 testing and treatment facilities, observers say. Most of them worked here before going back home to escape the pandemic in Thailand, Mr Koetmongkol said.
Commenting on recent COVD-19 cases in Samut Sakhon, Mr Koetmongkol said the kingdom’s health care system for migrant workers was fairly good, adding it was important to find the source of the infection.
Samut Sakhon, which is famous for its seafood industry, is home to large numbers of migrant workers, and the recent infections will have an impact on seafood businesses there, he said.