Migrant workers face difficult quarantine in Thailand as Covid-19 cases surge

BANGKOK, May 29 (Reuters): Forced to quarantine his factory as Covid-19 cases escalate in Thailand, migrant worker Hein Thet Zaw has spent the past 10 days sleeping in a tent, trying to restrain to starve small supplies of rice and boiled eggs.

“Burmese workers eat a lot of rice, but what we get here is a small box of food, which is not enough for us,” Hein Thet Zaw said by phone from a factory in the central province of Phetchaburi, which makes electronic components.

Thousands of migrant workers in Thailand have been isolated in difficult conditions at factories and construction sites, campaigners and rights activists said on Friday, as the country faces the worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic.

More than 10,000 migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have tested positive for the coronavirus since the case erupted in April, according to government data, prompting authorities to detain them in their workplaces or dormitories. to prevent the spread of the virus.

But rights groups say efforts by government leaders to infiltrate Covid-19 among migrant workers have violated their rights and put them at greater risk of becoming infected.

“Implementing an abusive and discriminatory policy, Thai authorities have placed migrant workers affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in a ghetto, where the infection will spread like wildfire in useless conditions. , “said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Thailand.

Later Thursday, hundreds of quarantine migrants protested at the Cal-Comp Electronics plant where Hein Thet Zaw worked after a power outage, which he said exacerbated congested conditions.

“Because of the sheer size of the area, we live in a boiler without a fan,” said the 28-year-old Thomson Reuters Foundation, who said he had not yet been told of his Covid-19 test result.

“Without electricity, we also don’t have instant noodles when we feel hungry.”

Two other Burmese workers at the factory plotted the same conditions.

Phetcharerk Tansawad, head of the Phetchaburi public health office, said about 1,500 workers were being held in quarantine at the factory hospital. Some are positive and others are at risk of being spotted, he said.

Cal-Comp said it continues to provide adequate food and daily supplies for the quarantined workers, and asked authorities to provide a mobile generator.

“The company is willing to continue to pay the wages of all employees during the suspension and provide them with food, water and necessary medical care during their quarantine or self-quarantine,” a company spokesperson said. and Jenny Chou.

Cal-Comp, which supplies tech companies like HP Inc, declined to say how many employees tested positive for the coronavirus, but the Labor Ministry said more than 2,300 factory workers were infected.


There are between 4 million and 5 million migrant workers in Thailand, many working in the construction, manufacturing and seafood industries, according to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The Thai government recently intensified the detention of undocumented migrant workers as it battled the deadly third wave of coronavirus cases, with the Labor Ministry warning that officials should not take action to face punishment.

Phairoj Chotikasathien, director-general of the Department of Employment, said migrant workers were closely monitored because of the increased risk that they would travel from abroad while infected.

Health authorities last week found the first 36 cases brought to the Southeast Asian country other than the coronavirus B.1.617.2, which was first identified in India, in the residence of construction workers in Bangkok.

“We want to show society that we are taking action,” said Phairoj, adding that the government is testing workers in 841 construction camps around Bangkok, where 129,542 workers live, about 59% of them. the migrant laborers.

Workers ’rights advocates, however, criticized the government’s approach.

“Labor authorities are arresting workers instead of testing them, and we are concerned that it will bring workers into hiding,” said Adisorn Kerdmongkol, a coordinator of the Migrant Working Group (MWG), a network of non-governmental organizations.

“(Migrant workers) are afraid to be treated for fear of being deported, and the outbreak is out of control.”

In the southern province of Songkhla, canned tuna processing company Siam International Food was shut down on Monday after it was said that 65 Thai and Burmese workers tested positive.

About 1,500 factory workers were confined to their dormitories and asked to return to work on Wednesday whether they were tried or not, said someone familiar with the issue, who asked not to be identified.

The company declined to comment.

Adisorn said the conditions faced by employees at factories including Cal-Comp and Siam International Food showed that “the government is not prepared in terms of quarantine management of migrant workers”.

“It wouldn’t have been after the third wave.” – Reuters

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