Hundreds queue for free food handouts in Pattaya

Images of hundreds of residents queuing up to receive free bags of rice and other dried foods on April 23 2022 in Pattaya suggest that Thailand’s economy still has a long way to go on the road to recovery.

During “lockdown” in Pattaya in 2020, huge crowds of people queuing for 200 baht food and drinks handouts from Rom Pho fresh food market were a daily occurrence. Two years on, familiar scenes are surfacing again as hundreds of residents line up to receive free food from the generous owners of Sampan Korean barbecue restaurant in North Pattaya last weekend.

Despite the partial return of tourists into the kingdom, many restaurants, bars and businesses and taxi drivers in Pattaya are still struggling.

A motorcycle-taxi driver lining up for food said that while the city’s economy is doing better, he only earns enough money on weekends and holidays. Other days, he only makes 100 baht.

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Pairin, a woman waiting in line, said Pattaya’s economy won’t improve until the government allows legal opening of the entire nightlife sector.

The pandemic impacted Thailand’s economy so heavily because much of the population is informally employed without a formal contract or salary. The imposition of national lockdowns and the closure of borders put tuk tuk drivers, taxi drivers, merchants, bar, restaurant and entertainment staff out of work for a long time with no support.

Many couldn’t find alternative careers, driving levels of homelessness in Thailand upwards, according to Sompon Hanprom, a coordinator from the Human Settlement Foundation.

According to the Diplomat, Covid-19 disproportionately negatively impacted the bottom 50% of Thailand’s workforce, who are already vulnerable due to their lack of regular income and productive assets.

Tourism has surged slightly in the first quarter of 2022, but levels of international tourism are still only a fraction of what they were pre-pandemic. While much of the world has moved on from the pandemic, Thailand’s economy is still lagging behind.

The government hopes that the economy will rise again after May 1 when entry restrictions such as the on-arrival PCR test will be dropped, attracting more international tourists to spend money in the kingdom.

SOURCE: Pattaya Mail

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