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Covid-19 hotline for forgotten migrant workers

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45 year old Maw la Myine is from Myanmar and works for NGO Thai Raks, educating his community about public health issues such as HIV and TB. And now, Covid-19. Maw has a gift for languages, having been a volunteer Mon language teacher to children at home. His ability to speak Thai led to him becoming a translator, liaising between the factory bosses and the workers.

He now provides a hotline service for Burmese, Cambodian and Lao migrant workers, in their native languages, who have fallen between the cracks of any support from the Thai government. Maw’s been a vital link to help prevent the spread of misinformation and myths about how the virus is spread.

“The reason I went to law school was to assist my people and even if I am not a lawyer, I can say that I am achieving that goal now.”

Last week saw the launch of a migrant hotline (1422) for Covid-19. He acts as one of the hotline’s responders.

This means migrants can get culturally and linguistically appropriate information not just on how to protect themselves, but information about testing and treatment as well.

Migrants often live in overcrowded conditions without adequate sanitation for handwashing, and where it is almost impossible to practice physical distancing.

The situation for the region’s migrant workers came into stark focus two weeks ago when Singapore’s efforts at containing the coronavirus, an early role model for the region, suddenly spiked as cases spiked among its migrant worker population. From exactly 1,000 cases at the start of April to over 20,000 today (Thursday).

Maw says that many migrants may struggle to access health-care services and public health information.

“Language challenges and a fear of engagement with officials may increase the barriers.”

The majority of Thailand’s migrant workforce have lost all form of income since the Covid-19 crisis began, and are unable to meet their own needs for basics such as food. Even the basic precautions like wearing face masks and using hand sanitiser are a huge challenge when soap and water is not available.

“Someone who shares one room with eight people cannot practise physical distancing. So we emphasise other measures such as leaving the room if you need to sneeze and then washing your hands so you don’t spread germs.”

This pragmatic approach is echoed by the IOM chief of Mission to Thailand, Dana Graber-Ladek. The IOM recently conducted a rapid assessment that looked into the mass of misinformation to which migrants with lower literacy levels are susceptible.

“This hotline is crucial to ensure that migrants can get the facts they need, and use that information to protect themselves,” she said.

“There is an undeserved stigma about migrants and the virus. Their physical environment, such as overcrowded company housing or cramped factory production floors, is beyond their control. They are working in Thailand to send remittances home and take care of their families.”

SOURCE: World Health Organisation Thailand

Covid-19 hotline for forgotten migrant workers | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand

Migrant workers risk losing their legal status, the Cabinet to extend work permit amnesty

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Migrant workers risk losing their legal status, the Cabinet to extend work permit amnesty | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Frontier Myanmar

Over 1.7 million migrant workers in Thailand are going to lose their legal working status because they can’t submit work permit renewal and a health certificate with Covid-19 test results in time. The Labour Ministry then proposes the cabinet will extend the registration period (amnesty) for migrant workers to help maintain their legal status. Migrant workers, including those illegal and unemployed workers, are required to register with authorities via the ministry’s website from January 15 until February 13.

According to the Labour Minister, every migrant worker to renew their work permit must receive a Covid-19 test at hospitals designated by the Public Health Ministry. The Department of Medical Sciences will be responsible for the testing costs.

Illegal and unemployed workers, who registered with the Ministry, will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for 2 years without penalties. Only those migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are allowed to overstay their current visas, but are required to register with the provincial employment office in the area they work, as part of the amnesty.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Environment

Laos – the ‘battery’ of Asia and a ticking environmental time bomb

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Laos – the ‘battery’ of Asia and a ticking environmental time bomb | The Thaiger

LAOS POWER FACTS:

Number of power plants soon to be completed by the end of 2020:53 hydropower plants under construction or in the planning stage, including those set to be completed this year; there will be more than 90 hydropower plants in Laos with a combined installed capacity of almost 14,000MW.

Transmission lines that connect with neighbouring countries: 14 carry power to Thailand, 2 to Vietnam, 1 to China, 2 to Cambodia, and 1 to Myanmar.

Trick question. What uses more power? Siam Paragon in Bangkok or the entire province of Mae Hong Son (with 250,000 residents in north-west Thailand)?

The astonishing answer is, of course, Siam Paragon. By a factor of DOUBLE the power consumption of the north-western Thai province near the Myanmar border. Siam Paragon consumes 123 GWh of electricity a year (in 2011), compared to the quarter-million inhabitants of Mae Hong Son Province, who over the same period, used 65 GWh.

So, whilst you trek across some ancient hills enjoying an old and proud culture in Thailand’s north-west you need to compare that with some of the opulent malls in central Bangkok which can easily compare with their counterparts in Singapore, New York or London.

The worlds of luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Tiffany and Cartier, and the power these shops consume, is an entirely different world from other parts of rural Thailand. But Siam Paragon is just one of half a dozen luxury malls sprawled along a 6 kilometre stretch of the city’s upscale Sukhumvit stretch. They all consume vast amounts of power along with a growing number of expensive condominium projects.

So, Thailand has turned to Laos and the hydro-electric potential along the Mekong to feed its growing electricity demand. Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, currently under construction, are among the cornerstones of a dam-building bonanza by Laos to realise its aspiration to become the “Battery of Asia”. Thailand is one of Laos’ key partners and buyers of power. And the kingdom’s largest energy consumer is (no surprise here) Bangkok, with it’s sparkling lights and air-conditioning ticking over the electricity meters at rapid pace.

Many analysts worry the planned hydropower dams will devastate fish populations, harm agriculture and hurt culture and tourism along the fragile Mekong basin, threatening the livelihoods of 65 million people who rely on the river for income and food.

With 42 power plants now operational, Laos is poised to realise its electricity ambitions. With a current installed capacity of approximately 6,000MW, the Lao government expects to achieve 14,000MW by the end of this year.

Thailand is not on its own with massive development and expansion putting pressure on the older ways of life. But the disparity in the Kingdom between the power-hungry city life and the older-style agriculture is now sharply in focus with this new deal with the Laos power providers.

But a devastating collapse at a hydro dam in July 2018 shon the spotlight on Laos’ energy ambitions again. The devastation caused by the collapse of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Attapeu province was sharp proof of the potential dangers in the Laotian government’s plans. The landlocked country sells much of its electricity abroad, which makes up 30-40% of its total exports.

The Lao PDR government is planning to double current energy production in the next 2 years. But environmental groups are warning of the project’s impact on the environment and the nations the river supports.

The movement of water, fish and sediment downstream has historically supported tens of millions of people along the Mekong, and efforts to constrain its flow are proving disastrous for the riverside communities.

For nearly 20 years, activists have called for action against the development of hydro-dams and water projects. But this month the campaign took the next step with plans to focus on taking action at the policy level.

It took 2 decades, but activists have now launched the “Mekong People’s Forum.” 200 people attended the forum including local villagers, conservationists, journalists, and representatives from the US and Australian embassies. The Chinese embassy, although invited, did not send anyone to attend the event. China is responsible for 11 dams along the Mekong.

This is the first time the many conservation groups and activists have come together with a single forum to tackle the many challenges for the river. Several dams have now been built upstream in Laos and China causing massive problems for the natural flow of the river downstream through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Cambodian PM tests negative for Covid-19 after meeting with Hungarian foreign minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Cambodian PM tests negative for Covid-19 after meeting with Hungarian foreign minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

Cambodian PM Hun Sen says he tested negative for Covid-19, but he will be in self-quarantine for the next 14 days. On Tuesday, the prime minister met with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijarto, who tested positive for Covid-19 while in Bangkok, Thai officials announced yesterday.

The Hungary delegation had a 1-day visit in Phnom Penh on Tuesday before travelling to Bangkok where the foreign minister tested positive for the virus. On Monday, before leaving Hungary and travelling to Cambodia, the Hungarian delegates had undergone testing and had medical certificates declaring that they were free from Covid-19.

Photos of show the Hungarian foreign minister not wearing a face mask when meeting with the Cambodian prime minister and other officials.

A number of Cambodian ministers and senior officials are quarantined after meeting with the Hungarian foreign minister. The prime minister says himself and 17 other at his home including his wife and bodyguards have all tested negative.

“Although I have not contracted Covid-19, I will self-quarantine for 14 days as advised by doctors.”

The Hungarian foreign minister and 12 delegates were tested on Tuesday upon arrival at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. The Hungarian foreign minister tested positive in the RT-PCR test. His infection was reconfirmed in a second test. Anutin says Peter was asymptomatic and taken to Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute where he was given the anti-viral drug Favirpiravir.

The delegates cancelled all appointments yesterday and flew back home on a private jet, according to Anutin. The foreign minister had been scheduled to meet with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

SOURCE: Thai PBS| Associated Press | Phnom Penh Post

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