While Thailand’s containment measures and strict border controls limited the toll on human life in 2020, its economy was among the worst affected in Southeast Asia. In 2021, the surge in COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant, a delayed vaccination program, and political unrest combined to thwart economic recovery
This macroeconomic devastation reflected the impacts felt by many people on their lives and livelihoods. The steep increase in unemployment—especially in the badly affected tourism and hospitality sectors—led to reduced household incomes, pushing many closer to, beneath, or further below the poverty line. Senior journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk summarized the situation by stating, “Unemployment, underemployment, debt, destitution, stress, depression, and suicide are the invisible realities beneath the COVID-19 iceberg of figures reported daily.”
Early on in the crisis, the Thai government boldly intervened to overcome the inadequacies of the established social protection system that provides social security to formal workers and minimal welfare assistance to vulnerable and low-income groups, but no protection whatsoever to informal sector workers not classified as welfare beneficiaries—precisely those disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
As the pandemic continued into its second year, however, aid became increasingly inflexible and inadequately distributed, with cash transfers giving way to subsidy and co-payment schemes aimed at stimulating consumer spending, supporting businesses and boosting the economy. At a time when the Delta variant was reaching its peak, these measures did not benefit those most in need who did not have sufficient resources to partake in them.
Critics also drew attention to how differing political opinions and the impossibility of assembly—especially of the reinvigorated opposition movement—during the “zero local transmission period” were stifled in the name of security. The application of curfews and bubble-and-seal methods to enclose migrants and low-wage construction workers within their living areas, irrespective of their infection status, raised concerns about securitization, the disrespect of human rights, and double standards.
This photo essay is part of the photo exhibition “Who Cares? COVID-19 Divides in Southeast Asia”, organized by SEA-Junction and the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) of Mahidol University, in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), Silkworm, Khon Thai 4.0 and Bangkok Tribune. (The exhibition is on display from 17 to 29 October 2023 | Curved Wall, 3rd Floor, BACC). For more details, check out at http://seajunction.org/event/photo-exhibition-who-cares-covid-19-divides-in-southeast-asia and https://bkktribune.com/photo-exhibition-who-cares-covid-19-divides-in-southeast-asia/
Source : https://bkktribune.com/who-cares-covid-19-divides-in-southeast-asia-thailand/