Thailand is looking into the possibility of renting the encroached border land from Myanmar to allow the Thai people who had planted rubber trees and oil palm on the land to legally continue to farm it, Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters before attending the cabinet meeting, Gen Yutthasak said that when he visits Myanmar on July 13 for a meeting on the Sea Games to be hosted by that country he may seek to negotiate with the Myanmar authorities on renting the land.
The former defence minister said he believed the talks would be successful, considering the good relations between the two countries.
Asked about the 49 Thais being detained in Myanmar's Kawthaung province, Gen Yutthasak said the 4th Army commander insisted in holding talks for their release through the local border committee. This approach is more likely to be successful than holding talks at a higher level, he added.
A task force unit of the 25th Infantry Regiment is responsible for this job.
Gen Yutthasak said that from reports reaching him, the number of Thai people who have returned may be higher than the reported 43 because some of them went right back to their homes without reporting to the authorities.
The people who allegedly encroached on the border land were from many different provinces including Ranong, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi.
Gen Yutthasak said the talks for the release of the arrested Thais, still in detention in Kawthaung, are going on slowly because drugs and war weapons were also involved.
"They trespassed onto Myanmar soil to work and planted marijuana, while Myanmar has also seized weapons. But I am convinced they will be freed before President Thein Sein's official visit," the deputy premier said, referring to the Myanmar leader's previously delayed visit to Bangkok, now set for July 22.
The encroachment began in 2005 and involved more than 200 people who were employed to work in the area by three groups of financiers. Therefore, a long investigation is required, he added.
Myanmar's state media reported on Tuesday that dozens of Thai people will face charges after they were detained for illegally crossing the border to develop rubber and palm plantations.
Nine women and 52 men detained during a Myanmar army sweep in a southern border region were "safe, but to face charges", according to a report in the state mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar.
The newspaper detailed weapons seized -- including nine assault rifles, 11 "homemade" guns and a landmine -- but said no shots were fired during the raids in the country's southeastern Tanintharyi region.
"The Thai detainees have encroached upon Myanmar's territory and worked rubber farming on a commercial scale and held arms and ammunitions for their security," the English language newspaper said, adding that Thailand had been informed through "diplomatic means".
Many poor Myanmar nationals stream across the porous 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border between the two countries in search of employment in affluent Thailand. Movement by Thais into impoverished Myanmar is rarely reported.
10 July 2012
Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa (Photo by Muhamad Ayub Pathan)