Kiela Samson, a 25-year-old Filipino tourist to Thailand, was detained in Myanmar after she and a friend and other Filipinos boarded a boat at Mae Sot Thailand.
Mae Sot is a city in western Thailand that shares a border with Myanmar to the west. It is notable as a trade hub and for its substantial population of Burmese migrants and refugees. The city is part of Tak Province, 87 km from the city of Tak and 492 km from Bangkok.
When asked in an interview if Kiela intended to work in Thailand, her family said her travel to Thailand was purely for tourism purposes only. She left for Thailand on December 7 of last year. January 7, 2023 was the 30th day of her stay in Thailand as a tourist. The maximum allowed stay for Philippine passport holders through the Visa Exemption Program is 30 days and is eligible for another 30 days extension at the local immigration office.
According to the testimony of her sister Elaine, Kiela told her on the phone that Kiela and her friend were roaming around Thailand until they reached Mae Sot. They met someone who offered them a ride on a boat going to the other side of the river where they can find a beautiful park. They were intrigued so they hopped on that boat. They went strolling on that said park in Myanmar. They decided to go back to Thailand and on their way back, they were approached by Myanmar police and brought to a police station for questioning and detention on January 17,2023, that was 10 days after their allowed stay in Thailand. According to her mother, her visa expires on January 20th and she’s scheduled to fly back to the Philippines on the 18th of January but they were arrested a day before their departure.
There are four border crossing points between Thailand and Myanmar, and these borders are officially open to foreigners after the pandemic lockdown. The allowed length of the stay depends on what country you are from, from 14 days to 3 months. The crossing points are Mae Sot/Myawaddy, Mae Sai/Tachileik, Ranong/Kawthaung and Phunaron/Htee Kee.
Unless Kiela and her friend crossed the Thailand-Myanmar border with proper inspection at the checkpoints, they haven’t violated any laws of Myanmar and border crossing was deemed legal. But if they crossed the border without proper inspection at the border then they crossed the border illegally.