Train travel between Burma and Thailand is becoming increasingly popular in the last year, with some travellers taking advantage of a loophole that allows people to buy a free ticket.
The loophole allows people who have travelled through Myanmar to buy tickets to Burma and return to Thailand, and there is a wide range of travel options for Myanmaris in Thailand, including trains, bus and taxi.
The Burmese government, which has been trying to restrict the flow of people from Myanmar into Thailand, has long faced criticism from human rights groups who have accused the government of violating international laws by restricting movement and discriminating against Rohingya people.
The latest loophole in the system was first reported by The Straits Times on Tuesday, when the newspaper reported that the Burmuean government was cracking down on travellers buying tickets.
The travel ban has also forced many Myanmaris to travel by car, or to take buses or taxis.
Last month, the Burma government said it would no longer allow Myanmaris and foreigners travelling to Thailand to visit Burma, citing a rise in cases of “extremist violence” in the country.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had taken measures to “protect the rights and freedoms of the people of Burma”.
It also said that Thailand had asked Myanmaris living in Thailand to sign up to the Myanmar law banning travel to Burma by air.
But many travellers are finding ways to circumvent the ban by booking train tickets to Thailand and then buying them from a website that allows travellers to buy their tickets online.
Burmais in the Thai capital Phuket, which is a major trade hub, have also been using the loophole to buy cheap tickets.
“There is no such thing as a free trip.
If you want to travel through Burma, you have to pay for a ticket.
If there are other options, it is not as easy,” said one Rohingya woman, who declined to give her name for fear of losing her job.
She said she was able to buy the cheapest ticket available at a train station in Phuketsi, a city of around 300,000.
Another Rohingya woman said she paid £80 ($120) for the cheapest train ticket she could find on the website, which she used to travel from Myanmar to Bangkok and back.
Some people have also tried to bypass the ban through online travel agents such as Rail Travel Cambodia, which offers cheap travel packages to people from the two countries.
The Burma Government said the law was aimed at keeping people safe from extremist groups, and the government had “strong measures” to prevent “any acts of terrorism”.
Bangladesh, the country’s second-largest market, has also seen a rise of travellers to Thailand in recent months, as hundreds of Rohingya refugees have travelled to the neighbouring country to seek safety from Myanmar’s crackdown on their communities.
In June, Myanmar’s military launched a sweeping crackdown on the Rohingya community in the north of the country, accusing them of supporting the outlawed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The government said the army had detained more than 2,500 Rohingya people in a bid to drive out their Muslim neighbours and that about 2,000 others had fled to Bangladesh.
The Rohingya have been targeted in a brutal crackdown by the army that has left thousands dead and displaced millions.