MAHACHAI, SAMUT SAKHON : A new bus route to Tak's Mae Sot was launched yesterday to help transport Myanmar migrant workers and their families to the border more comfortably.
A conductor on a Mae Sot-bound bus checks a passenger’s ticket at the Samut Sakhon bus terminal. The State Enterprises Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand is stepping up a campaign aimed at improving ties between Thailand and Myanmar. PAWAT LAOPAISARNTAKSIN
The new direct route will take Myanmar workers from Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province directly to the border at Mae Sot.
It will help migrants travel home with more convenience and dignity, says the Migrant Workers' Rights Network (MWRN).
The new route from the fishing and industrial town to the border would boost competition among transport companies and lead to better service for the migrants, Sein Htay, an MWRN adviser, said.
"More importantly, the migrants can travel with some dignity as the bus will go through only one or two checkpoints where authorities will get on the bus to check their papers," he said.
Until now, the migrants have had to disembark from their shuttle buses or pickup trucks five or six times during the trip to be checked by officials.
"Very often, some of the workers were harassed and humiliated although they were carrying proper documents," Sein Htay said.
The first bus on the new route left last night to deliver a group of Myanmar migrants to Mae Sot.
The new route was arranged with help from the Transport Company, the State Enterprises Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC) and MWRN.
Sawit Kaewvan, SERC secretary-general, said the Mahachai-Mae Sot direct bus route would offer an alternative choice for the migrants to travel home.
About 200 Myanmar workers travel to Mae Sot from Bangkok's Mor Chit Bus Terminal daily. That number is expected to increase to 300 a day during Songkran and other long holidays.
The new direct route from Mahachai, where a large number of Myanmar migrants work at factories and in fisheries, will be operated with only one bus initially to test its viability.
Myanmar migrant workers in neighbouring provinces such as Phetchaburi, Ratchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan are also expected to use the service later, Mr Sawit said.
The SERC could coordinate with the Transport Company to open another direct route from Ranong to Myanmar if the migrant workers there are interested, he said.
Wuthichart Kalayanamitra, president of the Transport Company, said the new Mahachai-Mae Sot route would be maintained if they get enough passengers to justify it. The company is also negotiating with Myanmar to open two other cross-border routes between Mae Sot and Myawaddy, and between Chiang Rai and Chiang Tung, Mr Wuttichart said.
He hoped that talks on one of the two cross-border routes could be wrapped up within this year.
He said the bus on the Mahachai-Mae Sot route is in good condition and should provide safe and convenient trips for the migrants.
Maung Maung, 30, a worker at Charoen Pokphand, bought five tickets on the 8pm trip for his family yesterday. He said the bus is cheaper, safer and more convenient.
The bus fare on the new route is 500 baht. A bus from Mor Chit currently costs between 333-666 baht, depending on the bus.
He said Myanmar workers typically carry a lot of luggage and other public bus operators from Mahachai often refuse to take the extra baggage on board unless the bus is fully chartered.
So instead they have to travel to Mor Chit to catch a bus, he said.
That takes more time and energy, especially for the children, said Maung Maung, who has been working in Thailand for five years and has returned home twice.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat