Coronavirus: Thai police raid factory recycling used face masks to sell as new ones

Police found six workers sorting out used face masks and ironing them before folding and placing them in boxes.
Police found six workers sorting out used face masks and ironing them before folding and placing them in boxes. PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK • A recycling factory which sold used masks as new ones has been raided by police in central Thailand's Saraburi province.

Mr Somsak Kaewsena, the Wi-handaeng district chief officer, said that he and police officers from the Wihandaeng station raided a recycling factory in Nongsuong sub-district on Monday following a tip-off that the facility was recycling used face masks.

Police found six workers sorting used surgical masks, ironing them, and then folding and placing them in boxes.

One of the workers reportedly told police that they received the used face masks from a dealer and did not know their origins.

"Workers said they got paid one baht (four Singapore cents) per piece, and they recycled around 300 to 400 masks per day per person," said Mr Somsak.

Officials seized all the masks and sent samples to the Ministry of Commerce to investigate the source of the masks.

"I have also contacted the Wihandaeng Public Health Office to press charges at the police station as a plaintiff against the factory, as its operation could jeopardise the health of people who buy the used face masks, as well as those in the community near the factory," added Mr Somsak.

People in Thailand have been lamenting a shortage of masks, with demand surging after the Public Health Ministry announced on Sunday that a 35-year-old Thai man had died due to complications caused by the coronavirus.

The man was a consultant for a duty-free store frequented by tourists near Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport.

Retail giant King Power said the branch where the man worked has been temporarily closed since Feb 6.

THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Thai police raid factory recycling used face masks to sell as new ones. Subscribe