41 rescued Thais to return 'within days'

41 rescued Thais to return 'within days'

CHIANG RAI: A military commander in Tachileik, in Myanmar, has informed Thailand that the questioning of the 41 Thais rescued from illicit businesses in Laukkaing township has concluded, and their repatriation is expected to be approved within the next few days, according to the Thai army.

The army reported on a meeting between Col Nathee Thomsen, commander of the Thap Chao Tak Taskforce of the Pha Muang Force, and Col Thura Zaw Lwin Soe, tactical operation commander of Tachileik, at the customs checkpoint in Tachileik yesterday.

The Thai side wanted to discuss the reasons behind the delay in repatriating the 41 Thais and find ways to facilitate the process.

During the meeting, Col Nathee was informed that Myanmar authorities would likely approve their repatriation within the next few days.

After this is done, the 41 Thais would be immediately transported to the Tactical Operation Command in Tachileik, a border town across from Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai province. There, the group would be received by Col Nathee. Earlier yesterday, Col Nathee said the Thai side is ready to fully cooperate with Myanmar to ensure their safe repatriation.

He said the 41 Thais had travelled from Laukkaing towards the Thai border in Chiang Rai province. They were being held in Kengtung in Shan state, a four-hour drive from Tachileik. The group arrived in Kengtung late on Wednesday night.

Col Nathee said the Thais were receiving good care from the Myanmar military. However, Myanmar authorities sought to question them regarding their entry into Laukkaing, which borders China and is known for illicit activities.

The colonel quoted Myanmar officials as earlier saying that upon completion of this process, Thai officials could drive into Tachileik to pick them up.

The 41 Thais, 23 men and 18 women, were among 162 Thais rescued from Laukkaing in the self-administered Kokang zone of Shan state.

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