CCSA frets about Malaysia virus spill

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Police show eight Myanmar nationals arrested in a rubber plantation in Sa Dao district of Songkhla on Sunday. Fleeing Covid-19 in Malaysia, they illegally crossed the border, with the help of traffickers, on their way back to Myanmar. (Photo: Assawin Pakkawan)

Still struggling to control illegal migration through the northern border, authorities have a new worry in the South, where a spike in Covid-19 cases in Malaysia threatens to spill over into Thailand.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Monday again highlighted the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia, where statistics show a recent sharp increase in infections.

Malaysia reported 3,339 new cases and 601 deaths, according to CSSA figures, on Monday. This compared with 4,209 confirmed infections and 594 deaths reported on Sunday. Overall, new infections there are on an upward trend.

Malaysia has the third highest number of confirmed cases in Asean – after Indonesia and the Philippines.

Although there have been few coronavirus-case imports from Malaysia, the CCSA on Monday again called for cooperation from people living near the border, asking they keep an eye out for illegal crossers.

“The situation in Malaysia is worrying. The point is, it borders Thailand,” said CCSA deputy spokeswoman Apisamai Srirangsan.

“CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin has repeatedly stressed the role of communities in helping by keeping an eye out for illegal border crossers,” she added.

Returnees and migrant workers crossing the border illegally have been identified by the CCSA as a source of the latest wave of the Covid-19 virus in Thailand. Another targeted group is gamblers.

Thailand added 369 new confirmed cases on Monday.

Thailand and Malaysia share a land border about 650 kilometres long, about 100km of that along the Kolok River and the rest largely in mountainous terrain.

Border security authorities have said the virus spike in Malaysia could impel Thais and other foreign workers to flee Malaysia through the Thai border.

On Sunday eight Myanmar nationals were caught illegally sneaking into Sadao district of Songkhla from Kedah state of Malaysia. They were in a rubber plantation, waiting for an agent to drive them to Ranong, from where they planned to return to Myanmar.

Officials said they had fled the virus outbreak in Malaysia, crossing into Thailand on Friday, by paying traffickers 3,300 ringgit (25,000 baht) each.

Two of them were later sent for testing at Sadao Hospital after they reported having sore throats. The rest were detained at the district police station.

Pattani has a clean sheet to date with no local transmissions, but the province had one import from Malaysia – a Thai worker returning to the province, according to a message posted on the provincial health office on Saturday. He was sent to Yarang Hospital in Yarang district.

It was unclear when he returned to Thailand from Malaysia.

The official border remains closed, but the Malaysian government allows foreigners overstaying in Malaysia to leave the country on a case-by-case basis, according to a message posted on the Facebook page of the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 6.