Coronavirus: Thai workers ironed USED facemasks and sold 200,000 pieces in 20 days before being caught in raid
Acting on a tip, authorities in Thailand raided a house where they found workers recycling used facemasks and selling them for a profit amidst fears of a coronavirus breakout in the southeast Asian country. When police entered the house, located in the Saraburi province, north of Bangkok, on Monday, March 2, they reportedly found six workers putting the used masks in a washing machine, ironing them flat after they took them out, putting them neatly in boxes to be sold as if they were new.
They also found bags of used face masks in the house that they believed were being prepared for recycling. Colonel Pairot Trisophon from the Viharn Daeng Police revealed that a worker at the home told the authorities that they had sourced the masks from an unidentified dealer and that, after cleaning and ironing them, they would sell one for one Thai baht (USD$0.032).
The worker said, in a day, they would manage to sell anywhere between 300 to 400 masks, a stat that should come as a little surprise considering Thailand now has 43 confirmed cases -- a number that is expected to rise further in the coming weeks.
Saraburi Provincial police chief, Pol Maj Gen Chaiwat Arunwat, revealed during a press conference on Wednesday that they had arrested three people -- the 47-year-old house owner and two accomplices aged 44 and 46 -- in connection to the case.
"The suspects admitted that they recycled at least 200,000 face masks for 20 days before the raid," he said. Thousands more were seized from the home and taken them to the Ministry of Commerce for further investigation.
Arunwat said the suspects had bought the used face masks from a recycled shop in Nong Moo in Wihan Daeng. "We will intensify investigation and conduct search at shops and factories," he promised.
Pol. Lt. Col. Samran Soreekun, in charge of the investigation, told reporters the suspects had been charged under Section 343 of the Penal Code (Public Fraud) which could see them imprisoned for up to five years, fined up to 10,000 baht ($319), or both if found guilty.
"The other workers including the house owner’s son will be witnesses in this case," he said.