Thailand’s Public Health Minister has ordered officials to take legal action against the illegal covid-19 returnees who crossed the border from Myanmar and dodged immigration and quarantine procedures, saying they caused damage to the nation.
Mr Anutin’s order responded to a group of Thai women who sneaked back from Myanmar’s border town of Tachileik into Chiang Rai province and later tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019.
“That should not have happened. The selfishness of a few people troubles many other Thai people. Although immigration is being restricted, the group of people sneaked through the border at will. They violated laws,” Mr Anutin said.
“I ordered provincial health officials through disease control committees chaired by provincial governors to file complaints to take all possible legal action against the group of people. We are about to reopen the country but now measures must be reviewed.”
According to him, the illegal returnees violated laws on immigration and communicable diseases and 14-day compulsory quarantine. The hoteliers who accommodated them can also be prosecuted for failing to inform officials of their visits.
Health officials were trying to conduct COVID-19 tests on as many people as possible in Chiang Rai and adjacent Chiang Mai province to contain the disease, Mr Anutin said.
More Thai Illegally Crossings into Chiang Rai
Thai Health officials have reported six more Thai women sneaked across a natural border from Myanmar into Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district last month had Covid-19. Some of them travelled Bangkok and other provinces, according to health authorities.
Dr Sophon Iamsirithaworn, general communicable diseases director at the Department of Disease Control, told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday that one of the cases was a 28-year-old native of Phayao province. She worked at an entertainment place at 1G1 Hotel in Tachilek from Nov 1-26.
She returned with a Myanmar citizen to Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district last Friday. Then she met a friend and a boyfriend, went to Singha Park and left for Chiang Mai province on Monday when she tested positive for Covid-19. In Chiang Rai, she stayed at her friend’s room and at Hop Inn.
Two other cases are a woman, 21, from Bangkok and her friend, 25, from Phichit province. They were at 1G1 Hotel from Nov 17-27.
Mae Sai -Tachilek Crossing in Chiang Rai
They returned to Mae Sai on the following day, stayed at a hotel there and had a fever, sore throat and runny nose that morning. Then they rode on a Grab car to Chiang Rai airport and flew on Nok Air flight DD8717 to Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport. The Bangkok returnee tested positive on Sunday.
The Phichit native then took another flight from Don Mueang to Phitsanulok and travelled on to Phichit. She went to entertainment places, Bird Bar and Crocodile Rock Pub, in Phichit with friends. The woman tested positive on Tuesday. The entertainment venues were closed.
Another case is a 36-year-old native of Ratchaburi province who stayed in Myanmar from Nov 3-28.
On Nov 23-24, she was at an entertainment place at 1G1 Hotel and met another Covid-19 case. Last Thursday, she started coughing and had a runny nose, sore throat and muscle plain.
She returned to Thailand last Sunday and went to Chiang Mai airport in a vehicle of her friend who came with a boyfriend.
The woman took a flight to Don Mueang airport on the same day and went to the Mor Chit bus terminal to catch a bus to Ratchaburi. As a party-goer at 1G1 was confirmed with Covid-19, she was tested and the result showed on Wednesday she was infected.
Illegal returnees from Myanmar
Two other cases are two women, 23 and 25, who lived in Chiang Mai and were friends of a confirmed case who worked in Tachilek. They crossed the border to Mae Sai last Thursday and stayed at a friend’s house in the district. They sought Covid-19 tests on Monday after learning about their friend’s infection. The positive result was known on the following day.
Dr Sophon said the six new cases added to four previously confirmed cases who had also sneaked into Thailand from Tachilek. One of the four was in Chiang Mai and the other three in Chiang Rai.
Dr Thongchai Keeratihatayakorn, deputy permanent secretary for health, said tests on people close to the 10 new cases turned negative, so the illegal returnees from Myanmar did not cause local infection.
He said the 10 women worked at entertainment places in Tachilek and they had no social responsibility. They dodged quarantine and caused the state to conduct costly efforts to test many people in contact with them to control the disease.