Relief packages help face COVID-19 in Thailand
Soe Thut, a Burmese worker in Thailand
Soe Thut or Wan is one of many migrant workers affected by the COVID-19 epidemic and its impact on the tourism industry in Thailand. Wan says he left Yangon in Myanmar for Hua Hin in Thailand seven years ago because of a job opportunity. Today, he works as a cook at a seafood restaurant in Hua Hin's night market.
The market is usually so crowded that Wan has to set up the tables and prepare the ingredients early in the afternoon to make sure they are ready in time. Sometimes he would be too busy to take a break.
During the pandemic lockdown, the restaurant had to close, forcing Wan to stop working. He couldn’t return to Myanmar because international borders were closed. He could only watch the news about the outbreak in his hometown.
Wan has received some help from his fellow nationals, including from the owner of the restaurant where he works. Some Thai friends have informed him about relief packages being distributed nearby. Wan says that all his Burmese friends working in Hua Hin are also affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
If I went home, I would have no job. But if I stayed here, I could not work. I had to pay rent for the room. Fortunately, my boss supported me for accommodation and food during the lockdown.
Wan has luckily not been stigmatized because of his origins. Still, one of the reasons he decided to stay in Thailand was that COVID-19 was spreading quickly in Myanmar. Wan says he would be ready to take on other jobs, to wash dishes or to clean, to earn more money to survive.
The story of Supachai Polsit, a volunteer at the Sang Foundation
"When I earned less money, I started to search Facebook for posts about nearby distributions of free food or relief packages. " says Supachai Polsit or Mi, who had come to work in Hua Hin as an 11-year-old in order to help his poor family. When the pandemic hit, he was working as a chef at the Hua Hin night market’s seafood restaurant, earning enough for his family to live in comfort. When the restaurant had to close, its owner helped Mi with accommodation and food, but it was not enough.
"One day, I went to find free food at Khao Itsukto Temple in Hua Hin, and met an elderly monk complaining that there was a lot of food left", says Mi "So, I picked up my mobile phone and did a Facebook Live informing people to come there for free food. That was the first time I published Live on Facebook, but nearly 2 000 people were watching it. The day after, so many people came to get food from the temple that the monk could not give it to everyone. I felt very happy, so I started posting and telling people on social media about free food distributions. When I had many more followers, I decided to become a volunteer.”
Directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak himself, Supachai Polsit or Mi has become a volunteer for the Sang Foundation. Today, he is a key man in the area, sharing information and coordinating with local officials and communities covered by the EU Response and Recovery project in Thailand.
What sustained Mi were the free food distributions. And the more he went to different places for food, the more he met people affected by the crisis.
He decided to start packing small relief packages of his own, together with his friends. He distributed them to people, especially bedridden patients, the disabled, and the poor around Hua Hin and Cha-Am. Until one day, he decided to become a volunteer for the Sang Foundation so that he could do more.
I felt very happy, so I started posting and telling people on social media about free food distributions. When I had many more followers, I decided to become a volunteer.
Mi says that he is grateful to have experienced difficulties, because they have made him more compassionate to people around him, more aware of those who are struggling to make ends meet. Even when very tired, Mi wants to help people as much as he can, because sharing and helping society brings him happiness.
About the programme
The EU COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Thailand programme has three key components: immediate relief for households impacted by the outbreak; a sustainable social and economic recovery through the improvement of the livelihood of affected communities; and building the communities’ resilience so that they can thrive and withstand future challenges.