Thai officials spur racism against expats over face masks

Published:  23 Mar at 6 PM
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As the COVID-19 virus tightens its grip on Thailand’s major cities as well as its capital, expats are fearing cultural clashes between the foreign community, local Thais and Thai government officials.

Since the country’s incidence of infections and deaths tripled over just one week, the Thais themselves began to regard the wearing of masks as obligatory, as it showed their concern for others’ health even if no infections had been reported in their areas. Westerners and resident expats, however, tended towards believing the advice given by the World Health Organisation in that the type of mask normally available gives little or no protection from the virus, although wearing them after testing positive was recommended.

Notwithstanding the WHO and its recommendations, Asian medics are insisting the failure to wear masks is causing the spread of the virus, a position taken by China in its advice to the Thai authorities. Sadly, this conflicting advice has led to racial tension in Thailand between locals and expatriates, a stance which is now being demonstrated via Thai government officials’ comments such as ‘dirty farangs who don’t shower’ and the suggestion that expats who refuse to wear masks should be deported.

The majority of the Thai population now seems to be following Hong Kong’s public shaming on social media of tourists and expats without masks, as the island’s citizens believe the wearing of masks has helped to control the territory’s infection rate. As a result, expats are now donning masks in order to prevent being the victims of irrational fears and racial prejudice.

Meanwhile and luckily for the large number of Western visitors and expats stranded in Phuket and unable to renew their visas due to the outbreak, the local immigration department has announced those having problems either leaving Thailand or being admitted to their locked-down home countries can apply for a further 30 days’ stay without prejudice. Extensions will be granted to both tourists and expatriates on other types of visa on the presentation of a letter from their consulate or embassy in Thailand. However, those applying will be turned away of they’re not wearing face masks.
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