Citizens struggle in trying times

Citizens struggle in trying times

Stories of woe emerge as state cash handouts fail to hit target

Unused phone booths have been converted into test cubicles for screening coronavirus infections. The booths were unloaded at the Covid-19 test station at Samut Sakhon Hospital in Muang district of Samut Sakhon province. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Unused phone booths have been converted into test cubicles for screening coronavirus infections. The booths were unloaded at the Covid-19 test station at Samut Sakhon Hospital in Muang district of Samut Sakhon province. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Citizens are struggling to make ends meet as the government continues to enforce the state of emergency to stem Covid-19 infections.

Kanchanaburi province was popular among tourists who wanted to see its historical offerings before the global pandemic, but many of those who depended on tourism are now struggling.

The historical Burma Railway bridge over the Kwai Yai River in Kanchanaburi is now silent after tourists and vendors alike chose to stay home. Tourists stranded in Thailand are advised to stay inside.

Lottery vendors currently earn about 80 baht per day despite attempting to sell tickets in areas that used to attract visitors.

Also, the Government Lottery Office has postponed its April 1 draw to May 16 to help control the spread of Covid-19.

A source said lottery vendors used to earn at least 1,000 baht each day, but many sellers are now in debt because of the economic impact caused by measures to stem virus infections.

The government on March 9 imposed the measures, which include a nationwide curfew.

Many who face financial issues are forced to fend for themselves as government measures to help those in need tend to make cumbersome progress.

Aware of this, some citizens have organised themselves to help people most affected by distributing meals for free.

One group who calls itself Muang Kan Volunteers provides 500 meal packages per day that include masks and hand sanitiser.

The Health Ministry on Thursday reported 29 newly identified local cases of the virus, bringing the national figure to 2,672.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha revealed on Wednesday that curfew restrictions could be eased and some business may be able to resume operations by the end of this month if new cases per day stay below 100.

In the meantime, people living in the provinces of Trat, Chai Nat and Pathum Thani are also falling on hard times similar to people in Kanchanaburi.

In Trat, farmers are reporting a huge dip in the price of rambutans due to Covid-19.

Pornladda Niangnim, a rambutan farmer, said she has had to also deal with wild elephants damaging her crops.

Ms Pornladda said the price of rambutans have dropped to only 20 baht per kilogramme, forcing her to take on debt to save her business.

She said many of her family now tend the crops after she was no longer able to afford workers.

"We have faced many troubles this year including severe drought and a drop in prices," Ms Pornladda said. "Our farms were also damaged by wild elephants."

"This year we do not have money to repay the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives," she added.

"I want the government to acknowledge these problems because they still collect taxes from us."

In Chat Nat, Suparat Nilrasamee, a trader who used to sell som tam in Hankha district, was disappointed she did not qualify for the government's 5,000-baht payouts due to miscommunication during the application process.

Ms Suparat said her som tam business has been passed down through generations, but the government classified her as an agriculture agent.

She said she is disappointed the government can disburse money to those who dismiss the aid as "small change", while those who need to buy milk powder for infants were rejected.

Ms Suparat was referring to a woman in Phuket who said on social media her government handout was not enough. She later apologised for the comment after she was questioned by police.

Despite the doom and gloom, some good news has emerged from the outbreak -- some citizens are showing solidarity and understanding.

CCTV footage showed a young couple and their child riding a motorbike and snatching six eggs worth 57 baht while the stall owner was not looking.

Komsan Rasrima, 33, owner of the stall, put up a sign asking the couple to stop stealing and ask him for the eggs instead, which he was happy to give away.

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