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7-Eleven, Family Mart cash in on the pandemic

Caitlin Ashworth

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While some people are losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic, Thailand’s billionaires are getting richer. The owners of 7-Eleven and Family Mart are just two of them. The convenience store franchises are classified as essential services and have stayed busy, while some of the smaller mom and pop shops were forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s reported that around 7 million people in Thailand could be unemployed by June.

To fix the economy’s problems, PM Prayut Chan-ocha sought help from Thailand’s elite. Last month, he said he would write a letter to 20 of Thailand’s richest people asking them for ideas on how to revive the nation’s economy. (He could have more easily picked up the phone and called them.)

The government has faced criticism for not doing more for the ordinary citizens, with millions clearly in need as they apply for cash handouts and wait in food queues in the steamy Thai midday sun.

The wealthiest person in Thailand, Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of the CP All Group which owns 7- Eleven, responded with boasts about the 700 million baht the company has invested in efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak. He added that the company has plans to develop virus test kits and they have created more jobs.

Some of the big “five family” firms, CP All Group, ThaiBev, Central Group, King Power Group and Boonrawd (makers of Singha, Leo, U, Asahi), were supporters of the former-coup maker, now elected PM Prayut Chan-ocha’s 2019 election campaign. Some of the current “favours” and “concessions” for these companies is seen as alleged “payback” for their past support.

But while Chearavanont says 7-11 has created more jobs, the final numbers of extra jobs won’t make much of a dent on the millions unemployed. As poverty has risen over the past five years, profits and holdings for the major Thai conglomerates have increased.

Critics have argued the Prayut government should do more as Thailand’s Covid-19 relief measures already appear to be missing the mark. As many as 27 million Thais applied for the “Nobody Left Behind” cash handouts, a program policy-makers initially designed for only four million or so of the kingdom’s lowest earners. Over the past month there’s been constant criticism of the government’s ability to administer and pay out the meagre handouts.

SOURCE: Asia Times

 

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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