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Thai virus clusters spotlight conditions for migrant labour

Berita 24 English -  A series of coronavirus clusters among Bangkok construction workers, including the first local cases of the variant ide...

Berita 24 English - 
A series of coronavirus clusters among Bangkok construction workers, including the first local cases of the variant identified in India, has refocused attention on migrant labour rights as Thailand battles its deadliest outbreak to date.

Migrant workers played a critical role in Bangkok's decade-long construction boom, but they receive little assistance from the government or their employers, advocacy groups claim. Many students live on-campus in overcrowded dormitories to save money.

Thailand detected it's first 36 domestically transmitted cases of the highly contagious B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant last week among Bangkok construction workers' housing residents.

The city's authorities have prohibited workers from leaving such camps after 11 were discovered among the capital's 30 active clusters.

Around Bangkok, approximately 409 workers' camps where authorities estimate that 62,169 workers live, approximately half of whom are migrant labourers.

"Migrant workers are an underrepresented group in society," Suthasinee Kaewleklai, coordinator of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) in Thailand, explained.

"Many were unsure that they could come in for testing without being arrested."

According to the International Organization for Migration, Thailand has between 4 and 5 million migrant workers, many of whom work in the construction, manufacturing, and seafood industries.

Myanmar workers were among the worst affected by Thailand's previous coronavirus outbreak last December, which had its epicentre in a province near Bangkok with a high concentration of migrant labourers.

Additionally, the outbreak resulted in a significant increase in anti-Myanmar hate speech on Thai social media.

Additionally, there are concerns that illegal border crossings undermine the country's strict quarantine system for new arrivals.

Authorities tightened border crossings over the weekend following the discovery of three local cases of the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa, all of which were caused by the illegal entry.

Thailand is currently battling its most severe outbreak to date, fueled by another highly transmissible variant, B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom and suspected of entering Thailand via an illegal border crossing from Cambodia.

Since July 2020, nearly 33,000 illegal migrants have been apprehended, the defence ministry reported.

Thailand's latest outbreak has claimed nearly 80% of the country's 132,213 cases and nearly 90% of the 806 deaths so far.

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