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Actions Speaking Louder Than Words About Reopening Thailand’s Borders

As tourism officials blather on about models, long-stay visitors, army locking down borders tighter than ever amid Myanmar outbreak.

Thai army patrols the Myanmar border in the north to catch illegal migrants after hundreds of Covid-19 cases were reported in August.
Thai army patrols the Myanmar border in the north to catch illegal migrants after hundreds of Covid-19 cases were reported in August.

Tourism officials continue to talk about reopening to foreign travelers, but the country’s actions are speaking louder than words.

Nearly two weeks of blathering about “Phuket models”, “Safe & Secure” and “Three Ts” have proved to be nothing but hot air even as the military and police button up the borders tighter than a nun’s underwear amid concerns over the surge in Covid-19 cases in neighboring Myanmar.

The spike of coronavirus cases in recent days has prompted local authorities in border areas to enforce strict measures against illegal migrants.

In Ranong Province, which shares more than 100 kilometers of border with Myanmar, patrol units are working around the clock to prevent illegal migrant that could potentially expose Thais to the coronavirus.

Myanmar on Monday alone reported 107 new Covid-19 cases, the highest one-day increase during the five-month pandemic. The country has seen more than 300 locally transmitted cases in the past two weeks.

Thailand, meanwhile, reported no local cases on Sunday and only one – a returned British woman teacher in quarantine – on Monday.

In the past week, Thai authorities have arrested dozens of Myanmar nationals for illegally entering Thailand through major trade posts including Mae Sot in Tak Province and Mae Sai in Chiang Rai.

At the Sangkhlaburi border in Kanchanaburi, authorities are applying strict measures to prevent illegal border crossings and prohibiting people from entering or leaving the country.

Maj. Gen. Thakad Lordsiri, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, Surasi Force, visited a temporarily permitted area in Phra Chedi Sam Ong Village in Nong Loo Subdistrict to oversee operations to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He instructed personnel of the Lat Ya Task Force Unit to strictly perform the mission to prevent illegal border crossings. More than 20 local entrance and exit channels have been closed.

The atmosphere at the border of Sangkhlaburi district and Phaya Tongsu district, Myanmar, is subdued on both sides. Not a single Myanmar migrant worker was found crossing into Thailand. On the Myanmar side, officials have also set up checkpoints at entrance and exit channel points, prohibiting people from crossing into Thailand.

In Ubon Ratchathani, Gov. Sarit Withoon said more police have been deployed along the border with Laos to prevent illegal immigration through natural border crossings.

Currently, only the Chong Mek checkpoint in Sirindhorn District is opene for goods transport and medical-patient transfers under disease-control procedures.

Since the border was shut in March, there have been no reports on illegal immigration through natural channels in the province, he said. However, officials and volunteers are maintaining tight security to keep a lookout for boats crossing the Mekong River to the Thai side.

The governor said Ubon had its first Covid-19 patient in March and successfully contained the disease with the total confirmed cases of only 15.

All of the coronavirus infections were imported to Ubon from other provinces, he claimed.

The province currently provides state quarantine facilities for Thai returnees from neighboring countries. No new cases have been reported so far, he added.

The National News Bureau of Thailand contributed to this story.