Pandemic affects tourists and migrant workers in very different ways – Radio Free Asia


The coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictions on movement are affecting foreign tourists in Thailand and migrant workers in very different ways.

In response to the recent surge in infections, the Thai government has announced new guidelines in recent weeks, including those affecting foreigners visiting or working in the country, as both are vital to the country’s economy.

In late June, authorities said they would be closing camps for construction workers in and around Bangkok. This forced tens of thousands of mostly foreign migrant workers to isolate themselves indoors for at least a month.

And in order to stimulate an economy devastated by the pandemic, especially the lucrative tourism sector, the government announced that it would reopen the island of Phuket as a “sandpit” destination exclusively for fully vaccinated tourists. Since then, the government has announced the opening of Koh Samui, another island popular with tourists, as a second sandpit.

Here are vignettes showing how some foreigners and locals are doing amid the new wave of the outbreak and the resulting COVID-19 logs:

Composite photo from a video interview with Lin, a pregnant Lao worker who lives in Bangkok. [Miss Lin/RFA]

Lin, migrant worker from Laos

A Laotian woman who identified herself only by her nickname Lin works in a market in Bangkok. She is eight months pregnant and tested positive for COVID-19 in early July.

“The baby doesn’t move regularly. For the past few days it has only kicked my stomach nine times a day – usually at least 15 times, ”she said earlier this month in an interview with Radio Free Asia’s Lao Service. BenarNews is affiliated with RFA.

Lin was concerned that her husband would also test positive because he was showing symptoms.

She had to wait five days before being admitted to a hospital in the Thai capital.

Lin’s coronavirus diagnosis affected her time on the hospital waiting list, an Erawan Medical Center official said.

“In this particular case, she’s pregnant, so she can’t go to a makeshift hospital and she can’t go to hospitals that only treat COVID-19 patients,” the employee said at the time. “She has to go to a hospital where she can get proper care, because if something happens to her pregnancy, the treatment will be slowed down further.”

On July 14th, Lin was released from a hospital after recovering from the coronavirus, but her husband was still in the hospital.

After her husband is released, she plans to return to Laos to give birth to her baby, as they lack the money to pay for a delivery in a Thai hospital.

Mean La, a Cambodian opposition activist living in Thailand, is photographed with her husband and one-year-old daughter. [RFA]

Mean La, Cambodian activist

Mean La, an opposition activist from neighboring Cambodia, fell ill with COVID-19 along with her husband and one-year-old daughter on July 1 while hiding near Bangkok after fleeing their country.

They lacked adequate food and access to health services, she told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Her family is supported by Cambodian migrant workers. Recent meals included dry food, canned fish and chicken eggs with fish sauce that were delivered by the migrants.

Mean La said she suffered from health problems related to the coronavirus but was most concerned about her daughter.

“My daughter is too small, she didn’t know anything. When I was in prison, she was in prison with me, and when I escaped Cambodia, she escaped with me too, ”she said.

Mean La said her family fled to Thailand in September 2020 to avoid arrest over Facebook comments supporting Sam Rainsy, the interim leader of the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party.

“I don’t dare to go out for fear that the police will make an arrest,” she said.

The family applied for political protection 10 months ago through the Thai office of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, but has not yet been granted refugee status.

Abdulla Hussain, a tourist from Qatar, stands in front of the entrance to the I Pavilion Phuket Hotel in Phuket, Thailand on July 15, 2021. [BenarNews]

Abdulla Hussain, tourist from Qatar

“I was driving in a car … I was crying. Is that thailand? Is that Phuket? Before that there were millions upon millions of tourists … now empty! ”Said Abdulla Hussain, a tourist in Phuket.

The 59-year-old businessman from Qatar was among the foreign travelers who arrived on the island – famous for its heavenly beaches and five-star resorts – days after the Thai government put this magnet for tourists as the first COVID-19 sandbox for fully vaccinated Visitors from abroad had opened.

He landed here on July 10th and, as requested by the Thai authorities, booked a room at a local hotel for two weeks. As part of the sandbox program, tourists must stay on Phuket and in the same hotel for at least 14 days, but do not have to quarantine themselves and can move freely around the island.

Hussain said he came here because he fell in love on previous visits to Phuket. Before Thailand became the first country outside of China to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the Qataris visited the Southeast Asian country at least three times a year.

“I like the weather. I like running, I get healthier, ”he told BenarNews. “Just to see the green, to see the mountains, to see Thai people showing respect by saying ‘Sawasdee Krub’ (Thai for hello!). You speak well. “

Ruchupon Noppakhun, Manager of the I Pavilion Phuket Hotel, will be standing in front of the hotel in Phuket, Thailand on July 15, 2021. [BenarNews]

Ruchupon Noppakhun, hotel manager in Phuket

Ruchupon, 52, who runs the hotel where Abdulla Hussain stayed, said he suffered economic hardship earlier during the pandemic when the island was closed to tourists. There wasn’t an easy way to move around or meet up with friends and relatives back then, he said.

The I Pavilion Hotel where he works has 105 rooms. Shortly after reopening in July, 30 of the rooms were booked – enough for his boss to cover overheads, Ruchupon said.

At first, he was skeptical that the Phuket sandbox program would come to fruition, expecting foreign and local tourists to be scared of traveling amid a global pandemic.

But business has been doing pretty well so far after the reopening, he told BenarNews on July 15.

He remembered dire times when all hotels on the island closed amid the pandemic.

“I could say that all of Phuket’s income comes from tourism. When the tourists were gone, all hotels were closed, ”he said.

BenarNews and the Lao and Khmer services of Radio Free Asia (RFA) jointly produced this report. Puttinee Nimpitakpong in Phuket, Thailand contributed to this.

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