Hundreds queue for food as COVID-19 left many jobless in Thailand


With the collapse of the service industry in Thailand due to the coronavirus pandemic, informal workers who have lost their jobs stood in line in order to avail of free food. Others are protesting the cash handouts that never came, while those who are able are fishing in the canals just to be able to eat.

“The government hasn’t helped me with anything,” said Chare Kunwong, a 46-year-old masseur who caters to tourists – a revenue stream that dried up with COVID-19’s stranglehold on global travel.

He stood in line alongside hundreds on Wednesday (Apr 22) in Bangkok’s historic quarter, waiting to receive food donations of rice, noodles, milk and curry packets.

“If I wait for the government’s aid then I’ll be dead first,” he told AFP.

About 27 million informal workers – who lost their jobs in the tourism, entertainment, food and service sectors – have applied for a monthly cash handout from the government, though only half have received approval.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has also issued conflicting information on how long the state can afford to give people 5,000 baht (US$150) a month.

An hour north of Bangkok in Pathum Thani province, a growing number of locals are fishing in a murky canal in the hopes of easing food shortages, Thai media reported.

The tanking economy has also led to Thais flocking to sell their gold jewellery, as the price for the precious metal spikes across the world.

Angry scenes have erupted at the finance ministry in recent days, as protesters demanded answers on being shut out of the government’s cash handout scheme.

Thailand’s export- and tourism-reliant economy is forecast to see a contraction of 6.7% this year, its lowest GDP figures since 1998. (Source: CNA)