Police have launched an investigation after 77 illegal migrants, most of them from Myanmar, appear to have contracted COVID-19 while being detained at an Immigration Bureau centre.
National police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk said the detainees had been kept in detention rooms at Bangkok’s Bang Khen and Lak Si immigration offices and the Disease Control Department was investigating.
The 77 migrants are Myanmar, Lao and Cambodian nationals who have been detained for illegal entry and include a number of Rohingya migrants currently detained in Don Muang district said IB chief Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang.
Since learning of the infections, the bureau has asked public health authorities to help set up a field hospital to screen more detainees and implement COVID-19 control protocols, he said.
He insisted none of the immigration officers handling detained migrants had contracted the virus.
According to a report by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), up to 68 of the 77 COVID-19 infected migrants were from Myanmar and had been detained together in a small cell.
More than 2,000 illegal migrants are being detained at the bureau’s detention facilities across the country.
Half of them are at the Suan Phlu Immigration office’s facility, where none has yet tested positive for COVID-19, the report said.
On Wednesday, Nit Auytekkheng, vice president of Ranong’s chamber of commerce, said many locals were concerned about media reports that the province was being designated as a temporary shelter for political asylum seekers fleeing escalating violence in Myanmar. They were afraid the province would end up becoming a permanent refugee centre, he said.
A source said Maung, La-un and Kra Buri districts in Ranong and Tha Sae district in neighbouring Chumphon province were being prepared as locations for temporary shelters for Myanmar asylum seekers.
Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae on Wednesday reportedly visited Ranong and inspected locations earmarked as temporary shelters.
The cabinet previously approved a 438-million-baht budget for seven border provinces.
They are Tak, Chiang Rai, Ranong, Songkhla, Chanthaburi, Sa Keo and Nong Khai, all of which handle migrants detained on illegal entry charges.