Illegal entry on rise as migrant workers eye return to Thailand

Growing shortage of labourers amid tighter border curbs hurts recovery, say businesses

To contain the coronavirus pandemic, the government has stopped visitors from going through border checkpoints, resulting in residents seeing a drastic drop in earnings.
Thai immigration police officers inspecting a route in Kanchanaburi used to smuggle people into the country earlier this month. In June and last month, 172 illegal entrants were nabbed in the Thai province alone - already three-quarters of the figure
One of the many checkpoints along the roads in Kanchanaburi province by Thailand's western border, aimed at preventing people from entering the country illegally. Thailand, which has outperformed much of the world in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, continues to ban entry via its land border to stave off a second wave of infections.ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE
Thai immigration police officers inspecting a route in Kanchanaburi used to smuggle people into the country earlier this month. In June and last month, 172 illegal entrants were nabbed in the Thai province alone - already three-quarters of the figure
Thai immigration police officers inspecting a route in Kanchanaburi used to smuggle people into the country earlier this month. In June and last month, 172 illegal entrants were nabbed in the Thai province alone - already three-quarters of the figure logged in the six months leading up to March 22. ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE
Myanmar workers seeking to re-enter Thailand as it restarts its economy under tighter border control have to first traverse the mountains seen in the distance.
Myanmar workers seeking to re-enter Thailand as it restarts its economy under tighter border control have to first traverse the mountains seen in the distance.ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE

"We are using an official vehicle," the Thai immigration police officer declared as we started towards the mountains commonly traversed by Myanmar nationals trying to enter Thailand.

This is not the normal practice, I am told. Here, in Kanchanaburi province by Thailand's rugged western border, security officers keep tabs on illegal entry using unmarked vehicles.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2020, with the headline 'Illegal entry on rise as migrant workers eye return to Thailand'. Subscribe