130 illegal migrants deported from Ranong

Illegal migrants from Myanmar listen to officials in Ranong province before being deported on Friday. (Photo supplied via Achadthaya Chuenniran)

Authorities have deported 130 illegal migrants from Myanmar who were caught earlier in Ranong, while arresting eight others in Songkhla.

In Songkhla, a security patrol spotted seven men and one woman, all Myanmar nationals, hiding in a forested area near Dan Nok village in tambon Samnak Kham of Sadao district on Friday evening, said Col Thanitphon Hongwilai, commander of a military task force.

The group had entered the country illegally and were waiting for someone to pick them up along the border.

They told the arresting team that they had travelled from Rakhine state in northwestern Myanmar. They had contacted a job seeker in Yangon about getting work in Malaysia and were told the fee would be 55,000 baht each. They had already paid half of the fees and were to pay the remaining sum when they arrived in Malaysia.

They said they had sneaked into the country via a natural border crossing in Ranong province late last month. At around 1am on Friday, a van driven by a Thai man had picked them up in Ranong and taken them to Sadao, where they were discovered and arrested.

In Ranong, meanwhile, a total of 130 illegal migrants from Myanmar — 102 men and 28 women — were sent back to their country in eight boats.

Security officers and officials from both Thailand and Myanmar oversaw the operation at a customs pier at Khao Nang Nong village in tambon Pak Nam of Muang district.

Dozens of migrants continue to cross into Thailand illegally every day from Myanmar, where economic conditions have deteriorated considerably since the military seized power last February.

About 80,000 illegal border crossers, the vast majority of them from Myanmar, were estimated to have been caught in Thailand last year. But as many as 100,000 more probably slipped past authorities and were now employed in various parts of the country, say groups that work with migrants.

The Federation of Thai Industries said earlier this year that the country faced a shortage of about 800,000 migrant workers needed for the manufacturing, service and tourism sectors as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic.

Eight boats wait at a customs pier in Ranong to transport 130 illegal migrants back to Myanmar. (Photo supplied via Achadthaya Chuenniran)