The Public Health Ministry of Thailand is preparing to send off 42 medical personnel who will accompany Thai Muslims participating in the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia this year. Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, permanent secretary of the ministry, and his assistant Dr. Suppachok Wetchaphanphesat, will be present at Suvarnabhumi Airport to see off the first medical team joining the pilgrims.
Dr. Suppachok has revealed that approximately 12,000 Thai Muslims, the majority of whom are from the South, will undertake the journey to Mecca between May 21 and June 23, with their return scheduled for July. All participants are required to undergo a series of health checkups as well as receive vaccinations or boosters for influenza, meningococcal disease, and COVID-19. The ministry has issued vaccine certificates as evidence of their inoculations.
In addition to providing medical personnel, the ministry has also trained Hajj health volunteers who will coordinate with pilgrims and collaborate with the medical team during the trip. Dr. Zulkifli Yusof, director of Mai Kaen Hospital in Pattani and deputy director of the Southernmost Health Development Administrative Centre, has been appointed as the leader of this year’s Thai Hajj Medical Office. The medical personnel will be divided into three teams for the duration of their journey to Mecca.
The remaining volunteers and medical professionals are expected to depart on June 2 and June 15, respectively. Upon their return, all Hajj goers will be required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in Thailand, as advised by Dr. Suppachok.
Meanwhile, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) has issued a statement addressing online rumors claiming that they had not collected additional charges for Muslims wishing to participate in this year’s pilgrimage. According to the SBPAC, they have yet to receive a budget from the government to support teams aiding people in the south, most of whom have been affected by the violent unrest in the key provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, in their pursuit of joining the Hajj pilgrimage.
The SBPAC has also expressed concern regarding the increased cost of travel for those wishing to attend the Hajj and has issued a warning about potential scams that may falsely use the SBPAC’s name to deceive pilgrims out of their money.