A worker walks along scaffolding surrounding three giant Buddha statues at a new religious complex in Samut Prakan, some 25km south of Bangkok on December 9, 2020. (Mladen Antonov / AFP)
Thai authorities continue to refuse entry of migrant workers from neighboring countries like Laos, which is widely seen as an economic blow to underprivileged people in some of the region's poorest communities.
In the latest incident, 58 migrant workers from Laos were detained on Dec. 7 by Thai authorities on the Thai side of the Mekong after the desperate job seekers had crossed the river illegally into the country in search of work, according to police.The 27 men and 31 women were on their way to Bangkok to find work but were detained before doing that. They were taken back to Laos under a bilateral agreement between the two nations.
Reportedly, the Laotian migrant workers had each paid 5,000 baht ($170) — a minor fortune by Laotian standards — to a broker who had arranged for them to be smuggled across the Mekong into Thailand where jobs were said to be waiting for them.
For most of this year, Thailand has kept its borders closed to the vast majority of migrant workers in Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia, citing the need to limit the spread of Covid-19 through restrictions on the movements of foreigners seeking to reenter the country.
However, the disease appears to be nonexistent in Laos, where according to officials figures, there have only been 41 reported cases with no deaths so far. Thailand, too, has managed to contain the pandemic with slightly over 4,100 documented cases and 60 deaths in all of 2020.