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80,000 migrant workers locked in Thai camps for 30 days

Drastic measure aims to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Bangkok by sealing off 575 workers' camps

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Published: June 28, 2021 05:01 AM GMT

Updated: June 28, 2021 05:06 AM GMT

80,000 migrant workers locked in Thai camps for 30 days

A sign announces that second doses of Covid-19 vaccine are being offered at an inoculation center in Bangkok's Klong Toey district, where one of the city’s  largest infection clusters was detected last month. (Photo: AFP)

Thai authorities have taken a drastic measure in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Bangkok by sealing off 575 workers’ camps in the city and its environs with some 80,000 workers locked inside.

Most of those affected are migrant laborers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos who work on construction sites in and around Bangkok.

The measure will remain in place for 30 days and was necessary because the coronavirus has been spreading among communities of migrant workers, according to officials.

The government has promised to supply the trapped workers with food and drinking water from mobile kitchens, said government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.

Soldiers and security personnel have been stationed outside the hundreds of camps to prevent the workers from leaving and potentially spreading the virus.

As a further incentive to stop them from sneaking out in secret, the government has said it will pay the workers half of their daily wages while their quarantine lasts.

Prevention is better than cure. Sealing off workers’ camps is only a reactive action and not a proactive one

“If they stay, they get paid 50 percent [of their wages]. If they leave, they get no money,” Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin warned.

Despite a partial months-long lockdown in Bangkok, the coronavirus continues to spread unchecked in the capital, with several thousand new cases reported each day.

Workers’ camps, which house migrant laborers in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, have especially been affected.

State officials say they will conduct mass testing among the workers and provide treatment to those that need it.

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However, the arrangement is seen by many Thais as a clear violation of the migrant workers’ rights.

“[Thai officials] seem to think that locking up innocent civilians is perfectly fine,” one commenter noted on social media.

“Prevention is better than cure. Sealing off workers’ camps is only a reactive action and not a proactive one,” another commenter stressed.

“The government should impose strict regulations on [property] developers to ensure they have proper and humane living conditions for these workers and treat them with respect as human beings instead of [locking them up] like animals.” 

There are also concerns that the coronavirus will continue to spread among the migrant workers trapped in their crowded camps where they usually live in small shacks that house several people.

Officials have identified at least 107 Covid-19 clusters in Bangkok where there have been more than 65,000 reported cases

At the same time, the government has announced new restrictions for all citizens in Bangkok and other urban areas classified as “red hot” zones of infections.

Officials have identified at least 107 Covid-19 clusters in Bangkok where there have been more than 65,000 reported cases in all since a third wave of the pandemic began in early April.

Dining in is now prohibited at all restaurants in the capital, while all entertainment venues, sports facilities and other popular venues will remain closed for at least another month.

“People will have less convenience during the period,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said, adding that for the time being there won’t be a total lockdown announced.

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