Senior Myanmar military official turns up for repatriation of illegal immigrants from Ranong
Senior Myanmar officials made a rare appearance on Thursday at a ceremony in Thailand to send back around 670 illegal Myanmar immigrants who were detained at the Immigration Detention Centre in Ranong province.
Myanmar Navy’s Tanintharyi regional commander Commodore Thein Htoo, and the Myanmar ambassador to Thailand were among the most senior officials from the neighbouring country to join the repatriation ceremony held at the Ranong Customs House’s Lighthouse Pier.
Rear Admiral Suchart Thammapitakvej, deputy commander of Third Naval Area, and Ranong’s Immigration Police chief Colonel Pissanu Sithitoon were among Thai officials attending the event.
Pissanu said on Thursday that these Myanmar migrant workers had staged protests at the detention centre in late January, demanding to return to their country. They had served their term for illegal entry into Thailand but their detention continued as the migrants’ return was awaiting approval from Myanmar authorities.
He said that following the protests, Thai authorities had asked their Myanmar counterparts to expedite the process to take back the detained migrants.
Their return on Thursday came only after approval from high-level Myanmar authorities, according to the Ranong immigration chief.
A source from Ranong’s security circles said on Thursday that this was the first time that senior Myanmar officials, including the regional naval commander and ambassador, had attended a ceremony in the southern province to receive illegal migrants from their country.
According to the source, the approval took a long time because Myanmar authorities had to carefully check the migrants’ records for their possible involvement in the resistance movement in Myanmar.
Citing the Myanmar embassy in Thailand, Myanmar media reported on Wednesday that the detained migrants would return to Myanmar in three batches starting Thursday.
“They will be sent back on February 2, 8 and 15. There has been a few months’ delay because of the outbreak of Covid-19,” an official at the Myanmar embassy was quoted as saying.
The Myanmar migrants, who crossed the border illegally into Thailand, were waiting to be extradited to Kawthaung, the Myanmar town opposite Ranong.