Glimpses of the Thailand-Myanmar border

1 September 2012

My first direct encounter with Burma starts in Thailand. The overnight coach from Bangkok’s Morchit terminal to Mae Sot in the Northwest stops at several Thai army checkpoints where soldiers with bulletproof vests and surgical masks survey passengers’ identity cards. With the first check in process, four people quietly slip off the bus and, once the officer is out of sight, equally discreetly return to their seats. In the early morning, we reach another checkpoint, but this time they fail to escape on time and all four are escorted from the bus. As the only white foreigner (farang), I am of no interest to the representatives of the Thai state – the officer motions not to look for my passport. It will be a different story on the other side of the border.[1]

Mae Sot in Tak province, Thailand

Once in Mae Sot, nicknamed ‘Little Burma’, the futility of the “fight against illegal immigration” is revealed. River Moei (called Thaungyin in Burma) serves as Thailand-Myanmar boundary between the Thai province of Tak and Myanmar’s Kayin (Karen) State. Border checkpoints are located on the opposite sides of the mighty Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge (opened in 1997), all fenced off with chicken wire. At the Thai border post, queues of people coming from Myawaddy on the Burmese side do not seem to die down the whole day.


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