PM warns Myanmar nationals over illegal entry

PM warns Myanmar nationals over illegal entry

Protesters hold up portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi and raise three-finger salutes during a demonstration to mark the third anniversary of Myanmar’s 2021 military coup, outside of the United Nations office in Bangkok on February 1, 2024. (Reuters photo)
Protesters hold up portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi and raise three-finger salutes during a demonstration to mark the third anniversary of Myanmar’s 2021 military coup, outside of the United Nations office in Bangkok on February 1, 2024. (Reuters photo)

Myanmar nationals who enter Thailand illegally will face legal action, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has warned.

He made the remarks as the number of Myanmar citizens applying for a visa to enter Thailand has increased sharply after Myanmar’s ruling military revealed plans to conscript young people for mandatory service from April.

"They are welcome if they enter the country legally. But if they sneak into the country illegally, legal action will be taken against them. I already discussed the matter with security agencies," Mr Srettha said.

The prime minister was also trying to allay concern that Myanmar immigrants would take jobs away from local people, saying that one of the reasons that Myanmar citizens are currently fleeing into Thailand is to avoid mandatory military service.

He also said that Thailand's unemployment rate is currently lower than 1% and that Thailand still needs many more labourers from neighbouring countries, though they must follow proper procedures to work in the country.

Anusorn Tamajai, chairman of the executive committee of the Pridi Banomyong Institute at Thammasat University, said the conscription of young people in Myanmar will also cover workers entering Thailand under memorandums of understanding between the two countries and this will lead to labour shortages affecting some businesses.

As a result of the conscription, Thailand will see an increasing number of Myanmar citizens entering and working illegally in Thailand, he added.

The Thai embassy in Myanmar had previously announced on its Facebook account that it is only accepting 400 visa applications per day, effective from last Thursday, to deal with an influx of Myanmar citizens fleeing into Thailand to avoid military service.

The embassy also said that Myanmar passport holders can enter Thailand for tourism purposes without a visa for up to 14 days.

Sources in Myanmar said that Myanmar nationals have shown up in large numbers at the Thai embassy in Yangon to apply for visas. The number is estimated at a thousand per day, the sources said.

According to Reuters, Myanmar’s ruling military plans to call up young people for mandatory service from April and also require retired security personnel to serve, media reports cited a junta spokesman as saying, as the army struggles to crush an anti-junta insurgency.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power from an elected government in a 2021 coup.

Last Saturday, the junta said a law governing mandatory military service would be enforced for men aged 18 to 35 and women aged 18 to 27 for up to two years. It said this would begin in April.

A conscription law was introduced in 2010 but not enforced.

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