Stranded Myanmar migrant workers from China appeal for govt. support


Myanmar migrant workers returning from China are stranded near the border in Shan state, where authorities have blocked access to roads and are forcing them to remain during a mandatory 14-day quarantine period, two of the labourers said Sunday.

The workers said they are living outside on streets in the Mongla area near a border crossing because Myanmar authorities prevented them from traveling onward after they returned to Myanmar on April 03 from jobs in the China-Myanmar border area.

“Around 200 of us are in trouble in Mongla,” said migrant worker Aung Win. “We are appealing [to the Myanmar government]for help. The hotel costs are so high here. We don’t have any cash.”

Local authorities have blocked access to the main road under government orders, he added.

Most of the labourers are from Yangon and Bago regions, and from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

When RFA contacted the liaison officer of Shan State Special Region 4, as the Mongla area is formally known, based in the town of Kengtung, he said he had no information about how local authorities are handling returning migrant workers.

As of Monday, Mongla region government authorities began providing some food and accommodations for the workers and are now conducting medical checks on them, Aung Win said.

Officials from the military, the police force, lawmakers, and Health Department personnel visited the stranded workers Monday afternoon and provided food, Nyunt Htay Hlaing said.

On March 18, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the closure of all border checkpoints to foreign tourists as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, though workers have been permitted to return.

Myo Tun, Shan state’s minister for social affairs and chairman of the local Coronavirus Protection and Treatment Committee, said authorities in the Mongla region informed his office that the migrant workers must remain in place for two weeks of medical observation to ensure they do not have the virus, officially known as COVID-19.

“The authorities in Mongla told us that the migrant workers passing through the region will be quarantined for 14 days, and then they will be allowed to go,” he told RFA, “Township administration employees will help them make arrangements for their return journeys.”

Mongla authorities have temporarily banned visitors from entering the region and said that Myanmar nationals who want to enter the region must inform them of their plans three days in advance.

Since March 29, everyone entering the Mongla region has been subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine at their own expense.

Tens of thousands of Myanmar migrant workers have returned to the country from neighbouring China and Thailand after factories there temporarily shut down amid the spread of the contagious virus, also known as COVID-19.

Now additional migrant workers are returning following the issuance of restrictive measures by China. Some Chinese employers also are asking their foreign labourers to return home as a preventive measure.

As of Monday, Myanmar registered 22 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with one death. (Source: RFA)