Myanmar Migrant Workers in Mae Sot Get Free COVID-19 Jabs

By The Irrawaddy 19 August 2021

The Thai government is giving free COVID-19 jabs to Myanmar migrant workers in the Thai border town of Mae Sot. The move to vaccinate migrant workers comes after the town recorded a high number of coronavirus infections and resulting fatalities in July.

The vaccination campaign was launched on Tuesday with factory workers given the first jabs as the priority population group among migrant workers.

“Those holding ID cards such as pink cards and passports are being given priority. They have purchased social security cards. Perhaps this is why they are being given the jabs for free. People without ID cards might have to pay for jabs,” said Ma Thuzar from Yaung Chi Oo, a labor rights organization helping Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand.

Migrant workers have to register and show a letter from their employers certifying that they are working in Mae Sot to receive the jabs. Currently, around 7,000 Myanmar migrant workers have registered to receive the vaccine.

Mae Sot in Tak Province was previously home to around 100,000 migrant workers, most of them Myanmar nationals. Around 80,000 are still there, with the rest having returned home or moved to other parts of Thailand in search of new jobs.

There have also been reports that undocumented migrant workers will be given jabs for 1,000 baht per dose, which they will have to pay back to their employers in installments.

Ma Sandar Kyaw, a Myanmar migrant worker who got the vaccine on Tuesday in Mae Sot, said that she took the jab out of fear that she might lose her job.

“They said that those who are unvaccinated can’t continue to work. It means you have to resign if you don’t take the jab,” she said.

Mae Sot received 200,000 COVID-19 doses from Bangkok, with over 30,000 of them set to be administered to migrant workers. On Tuesday, around five percent of Myanmar migrant workers received jabs.

Dr. Cynthia Maung, the founder of the Mae Tao Clinic which provides free healthcare services to patients along the Thai-Myanmar border, has urged migrant workers to accept the vaccine as it reduces the chance of being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19.

“Immunization is important as it can reduce the severity of the illness if one gets infected with coronavirus. It also reduces transmission and the risk of death, as well as enabling businesses to resume normal operations and life to get back to normal quicker,” said Dr. Cynthia Maung.

Mae Tao Clinic was founded in 1988 shortly after the 8888 pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar and is located on the outskirts of Mae Sot opposite the Myanmar border town of Myawaddy, Karen State. The clinic provides healthcare as well as education to migrant workers and ethnic minority people displaced by conflict in Myanmar, especially in Karen State and nearby regions.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed on migrant workers in Mae Sot since July. Over 20,000 new COVID-19 cases and 301 deaths were reported across Thailand on Thursday, according to the Thai health authorities.

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