The government is drawing up plans to repatriate 162 Thai citizens who are trapped in Myanmar's Shan state via Kunming in China, as the conflict between the Myanmar junta and local ethnic militias escalates, said deputy police chief Surachate Hakparn yesterday.
Pol Gen Surachate said the route, which was agreed upon verbally during a recent discussion with Chinese and Myanmar authorities, was selected to arrange their repatriation, as the situation in Laukkaing — located by the Chinese border in northeast Shan state — is getting worse.
The deputy national police chief is scheduled to travel to Yangon today to work out the details for the repatriation of the Thais, 29 of whom ended up in Myanmar after they were duped by human traffickers into working as scammers.
These victims were trafficked by Chinese criminal syndicates.
Their passports were seized upon arriving in Laukkaing, the capital of Kokang self-administered zone, rendering them unable to leave the conflict-hit border town, he said.
On Saturday, they were rescued by Myanmar authorities from a hotel in Laukkaing, where they had been in hiding since successfully escaping their traffickers.
They were taken to a shelter at a local military camp, where they joined 133 other Thais who had been rescued from traffickers in October.
Pol Gen Surachate said that upon arriving in Yangon, he will visit the military camp where the Thais are staying pending their repatriation.
First, however, he will meet authorities in Myanmar to discuss the safest way to repatriate the stranded Thai citizens.
As fierce fighting between the Myanmar army and armed ethnic militias has been reported in the area, it would be safer to repatriate the Thais via Kunming in China across the border. It would be easier to arrange flights from Kunming, said Pol Gen Surachate.
A source from an international anti-human trafficking organisation said all Thai nationals in this group were safe and sound.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon had coordinated with Myanmar authorities to rescue the Thais and provide them with safe shelter.
He also instructed state agencies to provide urgent assistance to all the Thais and bring them home safely, said spokesman Chai Wacharonke.