Subcontractor Arrested For Moving Migrant Workers Wanted Free COVID-19 Tests

Construction Workers Chon Buri
Subcontractor Suntharee Lakchai (second from left in police pickup) and her workers are taken to Bang Lamung police station in Chon Buri to face charges of defying a ban on movement of workers.

A subcontractor has been arrested for defying a ban on the movement of construction workers after taking migrant labourers from Chachoengsao to Chon Buri for COVID-19 tests.

Police apprehended Suntharee Lakchai, 27, in Bang Lamung district on Saturday afternoon after local authorities found she had moved workers from another province without permission.

Bang Lamung district chief Wutthisak Singhadecho said the woman had taken eight workers to Bang Lamung Hospital for COVID-19 tests. She reportedly told officials that the workers were staying at a construction camp near another worksite that had a cluster of infections in Si Racha district of Chon Buri.

All eight workers tested positive for the coronavirus and the hospital informed their employer.

On Saturday morning, Suntharee took the infected workers to the hospital for treatment. She also took another eight workers for testing.

Hospital staff became suspicious about the arrival of another group of workers. During questioning, the woman admitted they had come from Chachoengsao province, not Si Racha district as she had claimed earlier.

She told hospital officials that she was being charged 2,500 baht per worker for COVID-19 tests in Chachoengsao, but the tests in Bang Lamung district were free of charge.

The woman was charged with violating an order by the Chon Buri communicable disease control committee that prohibits movements of workers, said Somphon Jittiruangkiart, chief of the Bang Lamung public health office.

Suntharee and the new group of eight workers were handed over to the police for further legal action. They are being quarantined pending the outcome of COVID-19 tests.

The first group of eight workers are continuing to receive medical treatment, said Mr Jittiruangkiart.

Under the current rules in force in Chon Buri, any employers who want to move workers to the province must notify officials and present Covid test results from their province. Once in Chon Buri, all workers must be quarantined for 14 days before being allowed to work, he added.

Construction camps have been identified as the source of dozens of clusters of COVID-19 infections, most notably in Bangkok. That led to the one-month shutdown last Monday of construction sites in the capital and five surrounding provinces.