27 March 2020
Bangkok – As Thailand curtails economic activity and begins to close its borders to limit the spread of the COVID-19, thousands of jobless migrant workers from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic are returning home.
The announcement of wide-ranging business closures by Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang on 21 March and the subsequent Emergency Decree announced by the Thai Government on 26 March has also triggered a mass movement of Thai migrant workers from Bangkok to their home provinces.
The movements come at a time when Thailand and its neighbours are encouraging people to stay at home and enforcing social distancing to contain the virus, and could have unintended consequences, according to IOM Regional Migration Health Specialist Dr. Patrick Duigan.
“There is a risk that these returns could lead to the seeding of new clusters of the virus in areas of return, transmission among returnees during crowded buses and border crossings, and among those held in collective settings for quarantine,” he said.