Govt steps up border patrols

A soldier from the Naresuan task force stands guard on the Thai side of the border with Myanmar in tambon Tha Sai Luad, Mae Sot district, Tak province. (File photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The government on Monday ordered border security agencies to increase their patrols and suppression measures to prevent people entering Thailand illegally and spreading Covid-19 around the country.

The order was issued immediately after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who oversees national security, finished a virtual meeting with fellow ministers, border provincial governors and senior government officials. The meeting was concerned that the highly-contagious Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa had been detected in the deep South on Saturday.

Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said the meeting also discussed the situation with human trafficking and people illegally entering the country.

Lt Gen Kongcheep said many job-seeking foreigners were still sneaking across natural borders and being taken to potential workplaces around the country by smugglers.

He said officials reported that since July last year, officers had arrested 32,812 migrants, 23,258 of them near the borders and 9,554 around the country at 1,086 checkpoints, while 264 traffickers had also been caught.

As a result, he said the deputy prime minister asked border provincial governors to closely monitor the borders and to join forces with Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) to carry out surveillance on the human trafficking situation and illegal border movements.

Lt Gen Kongcheep went on to say that Gen Prawit had urged the authorities to enforce disease control measures more effectively by closing down all trafficking routes across natural borders and by cracking down on human trafficking networks, from agencies to migrant employers.

The Labour Ministry could also play a key role in identifying employers who allegedly recruited migrant workers to work with them, he said, so he urged them to work with security authorities to eliminate trafficking networks.

“Operators arrested for allegedly recruiting these migrant workers to work with them must be prosecuted and banned from running their businesses,” he said.

Most importantly, Lt Gen Kongcheep said, Gen Prawit had asked the Royal Thai Police to work closely with neighbouring countries to monitor border areas. Border patrol police, immigration police and provincial police must also work together to prevent migrants entering illegally.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said he would soon meet with the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade of Thailand, Federation of Thai Industries and business operators to underline the negative impact of trafficking and enforce further prosecutions.

Five Myanmar workers were arrested at a house in Muang district, Kanchanaburi on Sunday, and told officials they had failed to find work in Ratchaburi and Kanchanaburi and were waiting for their agents to take them back home.