Thailand borders four countries. Most of the borders are just jungle or the mighty Mekong River. In all cases the borders are easily crossed if someone wants to avoid the correct border channels. The country’s porous borders have been an ongoing issue with some 5 million+ illegal immigrants floating around Thailand at any one time. There has been recent attempts to hold amnesties and register illegal immigrants but Thailand’s borders remain ‘fluid’.
That’s a problem during a world virus pandemic.
Now the Thai Immigration Bureau is stepping up its efforts to stem the traffic of thousands of migrant workers across north eastern and eastern borders from Laos and Cambodia, and stop them from sneaking into Thailand illegally.
Thailand’s economic success over the past 50 years has been built on the back of cheap foreign labour and the pay and conditions offered in Thailand, whilst relatively low in world terms, is better than that offered by the country’s neighbours. Employers, eager to use the cheap flow of labour, are liable to turn a blind eye to the official, and onerous, Thai paperwork.
The head of Thai Immigration says immigration police are concerned about ongoing and illegal crossings as the Thai border remains closed to limit new infections of Covid-19. That the borders are so porous and the traffic across them almost impossible to police, has been a tangible threat to Thailand’s success in containing Covid-19 infections.
Pol Lt Gen Sompong says the immigration police will launch a campaign in the north eastern provinces to crack down on migrant workers who try and illegally enter the country for work.
Foreigners are not allowed to enter the kingdom by land, sea or air, with few exceptions.
“Some migrants crossing the border illegally may bring viral infections with them which will not be caught by screening authorities,” he told Bangkok Post.
The national police chief, Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, has ordered Immigration police to get information in the four northeastern border provinces of Bung Kan, Ubon Ratchathani, Si Sa Ket and Nong Khai about the flow of illegal traffic across the river and across the borders.
Pol Lt Gen Sompong, heading up Thai Immigration, met with immigration police at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge crossing point in Nong Khai, the small province meandering along the Mekong bordering Laos.
“I ordered immigration police to work closely with border police and soldiers in in arresting illegal border crossers. More importantly, state officials themselves must not get involved with such offences.”
He noted that, as Thailand continues to reopen, there will be a need for migrant workers again. There was a flood of migrants leaving the country when the borders were closed as migrant workers scrambled to return to their homes. But now that situation is in reverse.
“Migration to Thailand has intensified since the previous report in 2014. Based on data from a range of sources, the report estimates that Thailand now hosts approximately 4.9 million non-Thai residents, a substantial increase from 3.7 million in 2014.
Most of them come from neighbouring Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam, accounting for an estimated 3.9 million documented and undocumented migrant workers. Other major groups include an estimated 480,000 stateless persons, 110,000 skilled professionals and 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers.
Thailand benefits significantly from their presence. Migrant workers help fill labour shortages, contribute to economic growth and are becoming ever more important as Thai society ages. Constituting over 10 per cent of the total labour force, their work is thought to contribute between 4.3 to 6.6 per cent of Thailand’s Gross Domestic Product.”
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