Again, we find here a condensed version of all the misconceptions and amalgamations that give rise to xenophobic discourses on migrants everywhere. The association of the words pandemic and migrants contributes to portray them as a plague. If the objective is public health, why should there be mandatory health checks for migrant workers alone? If the social security system is considered to be adequately protecting this, why should there be mandatory health checks for anyone, for that matter? Why isn’t there any mention of the health benefits for the migrants themselves and for their families, if only to say that caring for their health makes for a more productive workforce? This access by migrant workers to social security is almost presented as an incredible act of generosity on the part of Thai authorities. Why isn’t there any mention of Thailand’s duty to protect the health of all persons on its territory, regardless of status?
Disease Pandemic Fears Rise as Migrant Workers Go Unchecked
May 13, 2012
Fears are rising over the spread of serious communicable diseases among migrant workers as the government’s policy on nationality verification does not require them to undergo annual health checks.
Workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia were previously required to buy health insurance when they applied for work permits. They also had to undergo annual health checks. But the nationality verification policy, introduced recently, allows migrants who are verified to enter the social security system, which provides medical treatment when they fall ill. Annual health checks are no longer required for migrants under this system, said a Public Health Ministry source. The nationality verification policy has resulted in a drop in the number of migrants buying health insurance, the source said.
Previously, the ministry managed to contain serious communicable diseases carried by migrant workers, such as tuberculosis, syphilis and elephantiasis, as many workers underwent annual health checks under the ministry’s health insurance policy.
Dr Charnwit Tharathep, the ministry’s public health specialist, said there were loopholes in the social security system as migrant workers had to pay monthly contributions to the Social Security Fund for at least 90 days before they were entitled to receive medical treatment. He said the health insurance policy for alien workers had been successful in controlling the spread of communicable diseases. Each migrant had to pay 1,300 baht a year for insurance.
A source said about 800,000 migrant workers had bought health insurance when they applied for work permits between 2009 and 2010. The ministry now focuses on both disease prevention and treatment, he said.
Dr Charnwit said the ministry had launched a campaign to raise awareness about birth control among migrant workers.
A cabinet resolution on April 26 last year agreed to open a new round of registrations for migrant workers. A total of 1.4 million workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia applied for registration. The applicants were required to undergo nationality verification.
The Labour Ministry had set the end of February as the deadline for about 1.4 million migrants to complete their nationality verification. A delay in the verification process forced the deadline to be extended until June 14.
As the delay has persisted, the ministry’s Labour Employment Department plans to seek cabinet approval to extend the deadline to September for the remaining 400,000 migrants who have not registered, the source said.