Workers call for help as incomes collapse
Border trade areas among worst hit
Motorcycle taxi drivers, vendors in border areas and other informal workers in provinces affected by the spread of coronavirus are appealing for government help to ease their increasing financial burdens.
In the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom where all four unofficial border trade areas have been shut since March 18 as part of Covid-19 containment measures, many vendors, taxi drivers and workers are struggling to make ends meet because of a lack of work, one source said.
Suphakon Suppharangkun, 49, acting president of the boat service operators association in the province, said people understood why the border trade areas had to be closed, however, the impact of the border shutdown was crippling for many who rely solely on a daily wage.
Nakhon Phanom is now only allowing the transport of goods between Thailand and Laos via the 3rd Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Nakhon Phanom-Khammouan) crossing.
Having suddenly lost their jobs, these workers and vendors still have many mouths to feed and bills to pay, so they want government help, the source said.
"These people are extremely worried the border could remain shut longer if the virus crisis drags on.
"If the shutdown is extended from the end of this month into next month, these people will no longer be able to cope and the entire informal economy [in the province] will collapse," warned the source.
Mr Suphakon said if the government resorts to closing border trade areas indefinitely and without sufficient measures to help affected people cope, unrest would then erupt and become no less of a problem than the virus outbreak itself.
In Buri Ram, more than 90 motorcycle taxi drivers at the province's main bus terminal were also calling for government help.
Their income had dropped by more than half since the outbreak struck, said one driver who asked not to be named, adding that their average income had decreased from between 500-600 baht a day to only 100-200 baht now.
They are urging the government to consider extending measures already rolled out to help workers insured under the social security system to cover them and other informal workers as well.
They were referring to the social security board's approval of a package of financial assistance including financial compensation for those who lose their jobs during the crisis.
Liew Changram and Sirimonkon Sudachan, two motorcycle taxi drivers at the Buri Ram bus terminal, said the number of drivers there had decreased by about 30% due to a sharp drop in the number of passengers and infection fears.