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Second Wave of Coronavirus in Thailand Leaves Lao Migrants Unemployed and Stranded

Radio Free Asia, Thailand, 30 December 2020 - A second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that hit Thailand this month has left many Lao migrant workers simultaneously unemployed and unable to return home because the countries’ shared border is closed.

With no money coming in, several migrants told RFA they might not make rent this month and want to go home, while others said they were uncertain if they would be able to reenter Thailand at a later date if they returned to Laos.

From April to mid-December, Bangkok was reporting daily confirmed cases in the single and low double digits. But in late December, daily totals spiked into the mid to high hundreds, reaching a high of 809 on Dec. 21, according to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Since the onset of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Lao workers returned home, but those still in Thailand are unable to return, and they are unsure if immigration rules will allow them to reenter Thailand if they leave.

The legal status of many Lao migrants in Thailand depends on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on labor cooperation signed by the two governments in 2016. It limits the duration of their stay to two years, extendable for another two.

But with a shortage of jobs, return under the MOU does not appear to be guaranteed, they say.

Many of the unemployed migrants are toughing it out in Thailand, struggling to make ends meet in hopes of a return to normalcy sooner than later.



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