Stranded Thais have no passports

Stranded Thais have no passports

The government need to issue emergency travel documents for most of the Thais awaiting repatriation in Myanmar as they do not have passports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday.

This is because their passports were confiscated by their employers, the ministry added.

The revelation was made by Ruj Thammamomgkol, the MFA Consular Department director-general, at a press conference on plans to rescue the 164 Thais.

All were duped into working for illegal call-centre gangs or were duped by human traffickers into working in Laukkaing in Myanmar's Shan state.

He said the Consular Department had received a report from the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon that previously there were 162 Thais, but another two were recently helped by the pro-junta Kokang ethnic group.

The total number awaiting repatriation was now 164, and Myanmar authorities had arranged shelter for them in a local military camp.

He said another 60 Thais, not 74 as previously reported, were still awaiting rescue. Regarding the repatriation, the evacuation route is up to the Myanmar authorities as they will need to evaluate people's safety due to clashes between Myanmar troops and ethnic rebel groups, he added.

"Laukkaing is a significant city in terms of Myanmar's economy. It is located five kilometres from China and serves as the prime cross-border trade link with China," Mr Ruj said.

"This city is very prosperous and has lots of high buildings. Along with prosperity, there are entertainment venues and scammers. As such, there are various nationals ... lured to work there. After the Chinese started suppressing such illegal activities, Myanmar authorities rescued the Thais," he added.

"We were informed that among the 164 Thais, the majority of them do not have a passport as theirs were confiscated by their employers. Therefore, we need to issue them emergency travel documents," he added.

For an evacuation route through China, it is necessary for them to have a Chinese visa, Mr Ruj said, adding that Myanmar is still evaluating safety for reaching the Chinese border.

"I have contacted one of the Thais in the camp, and she said that they are safe and are being treated well. I told them that the Thai government will evacuate them as soon as possible because the situation needs to be evaluated daily," he added.

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