dtac’s mission to support migrant workers amid the pandemic

Since December 2020, several COVID-19 outbreaks have flared up within migrant communities. The Central Shrimp Market of Samut Sakhon was the first epicenter, triggering a full lockdown of the region. dtac, as the leading mobile operator among foreign workers, sensed this would pose connectivity and everyday life challenges to affected customers in the region. dtac responded with Cambodian and Burmese-language health advisories, care packages and special top-ups to ensure foreign workers could stay connected affordably.

To better understand the situation on the ground, dtacblog sat down with Lalida Lohachitanond, head of the migrant segment team and two of its members from Myanmar, Aung Aung Htut and Aye Nanda Soe

First Responders

 “When the outbreak emerged in Samut Sakhon in late December, we realized our customers were suffering deeply from its impact,” said Ms. Lalida. “Our first response was providing official health advisories translated into Burmese and Cambodian through our online communities on Facebook.”

 

Currently, dtac Myanmar’s Facebook page has around 1.8 million followers, while dtac Cambodia has approximately 200,000 followers. Apart from acting as a bridge to necessary information, dtac Myanmar and dtac Cambodia also provided useful tips for daily life during the lockdown.

“When the lockdown was imposed, migrant workers’ income fell to zero. No job means no earnings. And when they saw barbed wires go up, they became really scared. They are a vulnerable group and we saw an urgent need to deliver assistance to the Myanmar migrants there,” Ms. Aye Nanda Soe said.

dtac gave away about 3,000 sets of relief items to migrant workers in communities around the Central Shrimp Market in the face of lockdown. Inside each set was dried food, drinking water and face masks. For the distribution of relief items, dtac has recruited the help of the Mirror Foundation and foreign worker associations.

Family Matters

The crisis is equally challenging to mental health. During the pandemic, family becomes even more important—as does access to entertainment. As mobile users, Myanmar customers enjoy Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, as well as Korean series.

“Myanmar people are very close to their family and form a tightknit community. During a lockdown, it’s important that they stay connected and can give moral support to one another,” Ms. Aye Nanda Soe explained. “Mobile phones are also the only source of entertainment when you are in lockdown for days on end.”

As the lockdown dragged on and migrant workers’ purchasing power was further reduced, dtac offered very affordable daily packages such as 19 baht for unlimited Youtube or 10 baht for 1GB of data. This ensures Myanmar workers can continue to stay connected when they need it most.

Touch-free Service

Migrant workers usually rely on local retailers for top-up services. But many of these phone shops had to stop operating because of the lockdown. dtac therefore improved its digital channels and launched the dtac app in Burmese. (Cambodian will launch in Q2). dtac even prepared a guide for convenience stores clerks to top up dtac Myanmar SIMs.

On top of this, dtac offers Jaidee services allowing users to borrow credits to make emergency calls and to transfer call credits to between dtac prepaid users. These benefits can be accessed by dialing a number (known as USSD) or the dtac App.

To call home, most migrant workers in Thailand use International Direct Dialing (IDD) services, because voice over internet (VoIP) is still not very stable outside of Yangon. Moreover, some users do not have a smartphone that would allow them to call using an app. Hence, dtac offers a special rate by dialing *00400, whereby a call to any network in Myanmar costs just 2 baht per minute.

“During such difficult times, dtac has done its best to understand the changing context of our customers and play a role in helping migrant workers—not just their connectivity needs but also their daily living,” said Ms. Lalida. “This is part of our wider shift from delivering telco benefits to delivering life benefits. We want to make their life better because they are members of our dtac family. We are here for them in return for the trust they have placed in us.”