COVID-19 Op-ed

The Migrant Worker Dilemma: Insecurity during Quarantine

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Pontip Vidyavrapat SHAPE-SEA
Research Programme 2018 Grantee

On March 20, it has been reported that in the past 2-3 days,
migrant workers from Lao PDR and Vietnam have been travelling from Bangkok by
bus to Nakhon Phanom province in Northeastern Thailand. Around 200-300
migrant workers per day return via the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge border
checkpoint. The Covid-19 compelled Thai industries to stop business
operations temporarily. This had left unemployed migrant workers no choice
but to return home. Some took the opportunity to go back to prepare for the
Songkran festival (mid-April). There have been fears of the contracting the
virus, as well as, difficulties of accessing medical care and protection in
Thailand (Siamrath, 2020).Government policies pressured Thai factories to
cease operations to prevent the spread of the virus. However,  these
measures have severely impacted wage earners, as well as migrant workers’
welfare and security. With no other forms of security, This directive for
self-quarantine is an oppressive proposal that ignores the plight of informal
laborers and migrant workers. They are unable to “work from home”, hence they
will not be able to earn anything. Furthermore, there has been a lack of
safety nets dedicated to them . Containment measures will be meaningless if
they ignore the situation of vulnerable populations, including non-citizens
and migrant workers.This Covid-19 crisis has just proven that those at the
bottom of the chain will continue to suffer. The Thai government has not
fully ensured that everyone (both Thai and non-Thai) can be able to access
social protectionsm including sick pays, health care coverage, insurance, and
parental/other leaves. Efficient, accessible and inclusive safety nets for
migrant and informal labor are essential in empowering people to not just contribute
to national economy, but also to the protection of public
health.

Siamrath.
(2020). แรงงานลาว เวียดนาม ทะลัก หนีโควิด แห่กลับช่องทาง สะพานไทยลาว​
ตม.เข้มคัดกรอง​ คาดทะลักยาวถึงสงกรานต์. Accessed on 24 March 2020. https://siamrath.co.th/n/140492

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