The Nonprofit Mekong Migration Network (MMN) on Wednesday criticized Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha for blaming so called illegal immigrants for a fresh Covid-19 outbreak at a seafood market, and called for better response against the pandemic.
The authorities have quarantined thousands of immigrant workers, mostly Burmese and Cambodians, at a seafood market and adjacent dormitories in Samut Sakhon province to contain an outbreak that resulted in more than 1,200 infections since Thursday last week.
“The seafood industry in Samut Sakhon, like elsewhere in Thailand, is hugely dependent on the low paid labour of migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia who live and work in conditions where physical distancing and recommended hygiene measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are largely absent,” MMN said in a statement.
The nonprofit also said it was “counterproductive” to blame the origin of the outbreak on immigrants, and called for better access to health services for them without the risk of facing action due to their legal status in the country.
According to data from International Organization for Migration, 4-5 million immigrants work in Thailand, of which the status of 1-2.5 million are irregular, often due to administrative hurdles.
The outbreak in Samut Sakhon, bordering Bangkok, has caused an alarm in the country, as the infections from there account for a significant chunk of the total cases recorded in the country.
Thailand has recorded more than 5,700 cases and 60 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The authorities have pointed at immigrants as the source of the outbreak, even though the first diagnosed case was that of a 67-year-old Thai worker.
Since then, they have quarantined workers from the market and nearby dormitories, mostly immigrants, and implemented containment measures across the province. Meanwhile, in Bangkok, they have announced the closure of schools and recommended work from home over the next 12 days.
Activist Suthasinee Kaewleklai of the nonprofit Migrant Workers Rights Network, told EFE that the situation in the market and the dormitories, fenced with barbed wire, have improved after an initial shortage of basic necessities such as food and water.
Suthasinee explained that many immigrants were “nervous” because, after testing negative for the novel coronavirus, they have been sent to dormitories where they sleep crammed with others who could be infected.
Immigrants have also been at the center of Covid-19 outbreaks in other countries in the region, such as Singapore, where foreign workers have accounted for 93 percent of the more than 58,400 cases in the island state.
In Malaysia, the authorities closed factories of Top Glove, the world’s largest manufacturer of health gloves, in November due to the spread of the coronavirus among immigrants, largely caused due to absence of adequate preventive measures. EFE-EPA