Bangkok Mail Inspection

Checking for Suspicious Items

Bangkok Post, October 18, 2001

All mail being closely checked
Sorting staff don masks and gloves

Safety is being stepped up at postal depots and mail sorting offices in the wake of anthrax scares across the nation. Letters and packages from foreign countries and outbound post destined for the United States and England are to be closely inspected.

Somchai Riewpanichkul, deputy governor of the Communications Authority of Thailand, said instructions have been issued to all postal depots and sorting offices. "It hurts to know that contaminated mail could have come from Thailand," said Mr Somchai. Mail addressed to VIPs and embassies and consulate offices would also be inspected.

CAT handles up to four million letters and packages each day and about 100,000 of them come from overseas.

Mail from foreign countries is normally sorted at the Lak Si depot. Staff are told to look for bulky letters or packages, items stained with powder or with a strange odour, or with no return address or addressed "personal" or "classified". Suspect letters or packages will be sealed in plastic bags and the appropriate authorities alerted.

Fears have prompted mail sorting staff to begin wearing protective gear such as gloves and masks. "This is standard procedures in normal circumstances, but largely ignored. Now they have put gloves and masks on without being told," he said.

At Lak Si postal depot sorting staff were seen wearing gloves and masks yesterday. A few admitted they could not help but feel scared after the stories in the media. "I don't know what anthrax is or what the symptoms are," one staffer said. Others said they felt quite calm following the Public Health Ministry's assurances.

Transport and Communications Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha said there was no need for panic. The ministry had not ordered any special procedures.

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