Three women are facing time in prison over the resale of hundreds of thousands of used face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Police in the Thai province of Saraburi raided a home on Monday to find a group of six male workers washing and ironing old masks before boxing them for resale, local news station CH3 reported.
The group told authorities they had recycled 200,000 face masks in 20 days prior to the raid.
One worker told police they were paid 1 baht (AU$0.05) per mask. Investigations found the masks were being sold online, including on Facebook, for 3 baht (AU$0.15) each.
Three women, aged 47, 46 and 44, were later arrested over the operation and have since been charged.
The case's investigator, Lieutenant Colonel Samran Soreekun, said the women could face up to five years’ imprisonment, Malaysian news site The Star reported.
According to CH3, the masks were purchased from a recycling facility at 4 baht (AU$0.20) a kilo.
Police seized remaining masks and were investigating the size of the operation.
Television footage from inside the home shows one of the workers, under instruction from police, re-enacting the procedures workers underwent to prepare the masks for resale.
A man can be seen ironing out one of the masks.
The discovery comes as the virus continues to spread globally and face masks are becoming a valuable commodity across Asia.
China announced in February it had ramped up production of face masks to meet demand, with factories abandoning its production of other items to focus on protective wear.
Thailand so far has 43 confirmed cases and one death.
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