Health tests for foreign workers are expensive and will backfire
It looks as though the education debate is back on the table and coupled with the recent comments regarding xenophobia, it truly is an explosive recipe.
I am an instructor at a prominent university in Bangkok and I am increasingly concerned about the increasing trend of xenophobia within the institutions relating to foreign employees in Thailand, particularly those employed educating the nation's people.
In 2011, two young Thai women arrived at Incheon International Airport in South Korea for the purpose of a short holiday. They were refused entry on the basis that because they were from Thailand, they were suspected of intending to work in the commercial sex industry. The ladies were sent back to Bangkok understandably humiliated, angry and insulted that they were given such a terrible label, a stereotype, based on one thing and one thing alone - their nationality.
In the same year, the Thai Ministry of Education instituted a new policy requiring all foreign employees to undergo a medical to accompany their work permit application and thence each renewal. Originally, the test comprised a simple physical examination where the applicant was asked of any problems relating to mental illness, alcohol and/or illegal substance abuse and only on initial application. Now, this test requires the drawing of blood in a hospital and a near full pathologic screening for diseases such as leprosy, tuberculosis, elephantiasis, drug/alcohol addiction, tertiary syphilis and hepatitis B. Rather than my employer offering assistance on how to satisfy the requirement of this testing through collaboration with a local hospital, they have actually added HIV to the list as a requirement.
These tests are quite expensive, running as high as Bt2,500 each. When questioned, university staff said that foreigners have brought all these diseases into the country. I now know how these two Thai tourists felt in Korea that day. Sadly, this is another blow to Thailand's already draconian and suffering education system and if left unchecked, Thailand will end up with the very teachers it hopes to avoid - the rest of us properly trained and qualified who try to contribute positively to this fine nation will have left.