SARABURI — Police on Monday raided a shop in Saraburi province where thousands of used face masks were allegedly recycled for new customers.
Officers said they found six men washing, ironing, and repackaging piles of face masks inside a house in Wihan Daeng district. The men were paid one baht for the recycling of each mask, according to the police, who added that the operation took place without any relevant health permit.
Police identified the owner of the house as a woman named Jintana who was not immediately available for questioning because she was traveling in another province, according to her son.
Her 17-year-old son, Non, said Jintana bought the used face masks in bulk from a factory.
A deputy head of Wihan Daeng Police Station said Jintana and two of her accomplices were charged with selling falsely labeled commodities. It is unclear how many used masks were resold by Jintana to the market.
An official at the Food and Drug Administration said they have yet to receive a report about the incident.
Frustrations are also growing among the netizens over the shortage of face masks and retailers profiteering from the fear of coronavirus outbreak, sending #FaceMask to the top trending on Thai Twitter.
Photos of overpriced face masks took over social media feeds despite being placed as a price-controlled product, while those who were lucky enough to get them complained about the poor quality of some masks.
“My skin is even thicker,” singer Mai Charoenpura wrote on her Twitter accompanied by a photo of a paper-thin face mask.
— ITRC 😼 (@charoenpura) March 2, 2020
People also used the platform to vent their anger on the government’s response to the worsening scarcity.
Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday people should make their own reusable cloth masks instead of relying solely on disposable surgical masks.
And despite the public’s testimonies to the contrary, chief of Internal Trade Department Wichai Phochanakit insisted there would be no shortage of face masks.
He said 600,000 of the 1.3 million pieces produced nationwide per day are being allocated to the government for distribution to hospitals and big retailers.
“So damn shameful. Thai government only knows how to serve their capitalists instead of Thai people,” user @moonchildshine wrote.
“The economy is bad, but the government is celebrating,” another user @infinityinlover commented. “Each party dodges their responsibility to one another. Please sympathize with the people and make the taxes that we paid for your salaries worthwhile.”
Additional reporting Tappanai Boonbandit