Govt orchestrates return of Thai nationals stranded in Myanmar via China

Photo: AFP

The Thai government is orchestrating the return of 162 stranded Thai nationals from Myanmar’s Shan state through Kunming, China, as the conflict between the Myanmar military regime and local ethnic factions intensifies. The Deputy Police Chief, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, revealed this repatriation strategy yesterday.

The chosen route was verbally agreed upon during a recent meeting with Chinese and Myanmar officials, following the deteriorating situation in Laukkaing, a town near the Chinese border in the northeast Shan state.

Today, the Deputy National Police Chief will journey to Yangon to finalise repatriation details for these Thai citizens. Among them, 29 were lured into Myanmar by human traffickers with false job promises.

Chinese criminal groups are reportedly responsible for the trafficking operation. Upon their arrival in Laukkaing, the capital of the Kokang self-administered zone, the victims’ passports were confiscated, leaving them trapped in the conflict-ridden border town.

Myanmar authorities rescued the group on Saturday from a Laukkaing hotel, where they had been hiding after escaping their traffickers.

They were then transported to a local military camp for shelter, joining an additional 133 Thais who had been previously rescued from traffickers in October.

Thai nationals in Myanmar

Upon his arrival in Yangon, the Deputy National Police Chief plans to visit the military camp sheltering the Thai nationals. He will first meet with Myanmar authorities to discuss the safest repatriation method for the stranded citizens.

Given the intense clashes between the Myanmar army and armed ethnic groups in the area, Big Joke suggested that repatriating the Thais via Kunming, China, would be safer. The city’s location across the border would also facilitate flight arrangements.

An international anti-human trafficking organisation source confirmed the safety of all Thai nationals in this group, reported Bangkok Post.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin previously disclosed on Twitter that the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon had coordinated with Myanmar authorities to provide safe shelter and rescue the Thais. The 61 year old Bangkok-born Thai PM has also directed state agencies to deliver immediate aid to all the Thais and ensure their safe return home, according to spokesman Chai Wacharonke.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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