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In Thailand, Myanmar exodus a lifeline for COVID-battered economy | Business and Economy

Bangkok, Thailand – For Sithu, the nightly choice is simple: risk arrest for working illegally in a Bangkok restaurant or return to penury in Myanmar.

He is among a shadow army of undocumented workers staffing hospitality, construction sites, farms and factories in a Thai economy that has been crushed and starved of authorised migrant labour by the pandemic.

The kingdom, still Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy despite last year suffering its worst contraction since 1997, is trying to reboot after a draining battle to control COVID-19.

To do so it urgently needs hundreds of thousands of cheap manual labourers from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

But sourcing such labour during a pandemic is complicated, with fears uncontrolled migration may lead to a surge in COVID cases that ultimately forces the country to close down once more.

That has left many businesses…

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