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Big brands, small firms offer pandemic aid to Thailand’s migrant workers


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Big brands, small firms offer pandemic aid to Thailand’s migrant workers

COVID-19 TEST. A medical worker performs a nose swab on a migrant worker at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, December 19, 2020.

File photo by Panumas Sa/Reuters

The coronavirus crisis leaves many migrant workers unable to find jobs and struggling to survive in the Thai province of Samut Sakhon

Global brands and small firms are providing aid to migrant workers in Thailand after a jump in coronavirus cases, a move backed by activist groups on Thursday, January 14, who urged businesses to help pay for testing and access health care.

In Samut Sakhon, a province south of Bangkok where an outbreak began at a shrimp market late last year, seafood companies are providing assistance to migrant workers – mostly from Myanmar – who are a major source of labor for the industry in the area.

Companies that have donated food and drinks in Samut Sakhon included Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), Thailand’s largest agriculture business, Thai Union Group, the world’s biggest producer of tuna, and drinks giant Osotspa.

Kimberly Rogovin, a coordinator for Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, a workers’ rights organization, welcomed the aid but said more needed to be done to address the current crisis and prevent future disasters.

“While it is positive to see big brands giving aid and food to migrant workers, the private sector must also ensure workers are paid decent wages, have access to health care, and do not bear the burden of paying for COVID-19 tests or new registration requirements,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Thailand is dealing with its worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 200 new infections each day, raising the total so far to more than 11,000 cases, including 69 deaths.

The current crisis has left many migrant workers unable to find jobs and struggling to survive in Samut Sakhon, which has an estimated 400,000 migrant workers according to activists, and has been under lockdown since last month.

Migrant worker charities say they have received complaints from workers who had been asked by employers to obtain medical certificates showing negative COVID-19 test results – which can be expensive – in order to return to their jobs.

“We are well aware of the hardships that Thai and migrant people are facing…and have offered a helping hand to Myanmar people [by providing them with food],” CPF chief executive Prasit Boondoungprasert said in a statement.

Thailand’s second largest mobile operator True Corporation has donated mobile phone SIM cards to provide internet access, while rival operator Total Access Communication has bolstered its network near migrant worker housing in Samut Sakhon.

The Raks Thai Foundation, a legal aid charity that has an office in Samut Sakhon, said it had received donations from 3 local companies since December.

Global brands such as food and drink giant PepsiCo, chocolate maker Mars, and consumer goods company Colgate-Palmolive also provided support last year, it added.

“At the end of the day, migrant workers help support the Thai economy and they should be given equal rights,” said Phumjai Krisintu, director of resources development at the foundation. – Thomson Reuters Foundation/

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