The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 Coronavirus in Thailand has stopped climbing and on Wednesday Thailand reported zero cases for the first time since March, 2020.
The Thai government’s rapid response to the covid-19 outbreak has been applauded by many in the international community including the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, halting the rise in infections has come at a huge expense of ordinary Thais. Many Thai have sacrificed their livelihoods for Covid-19. Furthermore many have lost their jobs in complying with government policies to control the virus. Including the shutdown of businesses and the night-time curfew.
Now many have realized that a deadlier threat than Covid-19 has hit their doorsteps in Thailand. Its name is famine.
People committing suicide in Thailand due to covid-19 Coronavirus
Government aid measures, while barely adequate, are still not reaching many of the people. Especially the people who have been hardest hit by this crisis. In a sad irony, the website where people can register for aid is called “We do not leave anyone behind”.
The evidence is overwhelming: People desperate for the Bt5,000 monthly handout recently stormed the Finance Ministry. Long lines have formed outside gold shops as Thais sell what gold they have for cash to buy food. And worst of all, the number of suicides have also risen. Economic recession has sent people into a spiral of stress and despair.
Scholars warn that the number of people driven to suicide by economic hardship could exceed the number of COVID-19 deaths if the government doesn’t react. Thailand is well known for having one of the highest wealth inequalities in the world and also one of the highest suicide rates in Southeast Asia.
In fact, suicide ranks second among the non-natural causes of death in Thailand after traffic accidents.
Many Thai are facing starvation due to coronavirus in Thailand
Thailand’s Prime Minister General Prayut cannot just focus on the virus the Nation reports. He must also manage the lives of 67 million Thais, many of who face starvation. Especially if the current restrictions on daily continue much longer.
General Prayut must make sure that aid measures enable people to afford the basic necessities of life. And above all that the money first goes to the ones who need it most.
He also has to ignore opposition politicians who are criticizing the government’s measures with a hidden agenda. Now is not the time for political debate. Especially when people are facing the very real prospect of hunger and death.
Starving people will resort to drastic actions, including breaking laws and restrictions set by the government to control the outbreak. If Prayut ignores this fact, the repercussions that follow could radically change both the Covid-19 situation in Thailand and the status of his government.
This is a translated version of the “Khon Thai” column that appeared in the Krungthep Turakij newspaper.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please contact your country’s suicide hotline (list here) immediately. For residents of Thailand, please call the Samaritans of Thailand help line at (02) 713-6793.