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Majority of Thais despondent as economy reels from pandemic

Survey reveals over 75 percent of respondents are feeling stressed and worried as government mishandles Covid-19 crisis

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Published: June 02, 2021 04:55 AM GMT

Updated: June 02, 2021 05:00 AM GMT

Majority of Thais despondent as economy reels from pandemic

People wait to receive doses of the Sinovac vaccine at Holy Redeemer Church in Bangkok on May 30. (Photo: AFP)

Three out of four Thais feel despondent about their current situation, according to a new poll, as the country continues to grapple with a major outbreak of Covid-19.

Conducted online with more than 1,700 people nationwide in late May by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University with the aim of gauging Thais’ perception of their mental health during the pandemic, slightly over 75 percent of respondents said they were feeling stressed and worried.

Nearly as many, or 73 percent, of those polled said they were feeling hopeless, while three out of five respondents said they felt irritated.

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Nine out of 10 Thais cited the worsening Covid-19 situation while three-quarters of them said the parlous economic state of the country was weighing heavily on their minds.

For months Thailand, a country that managed to weather the pandemic largely unscathed last year, has been battling a new outbreak of Covid-19 with thousands of new cases and an average of around 30 deaths daily.

To date, the Southeast Asian nation has registered more than 156,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths, the vast majority of them in the past few months.

I barely have any costumers nowadays because people don’t want to spend money

Although those rates remain relatively low by international standards, the large-scale disease mitigation measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus, including various lockdowns, have resulted in a crushing blow to the country’s tourism-dependent economy.

With many restaurants, entertainment venues, massage parlors and other businesses having been shuttered or staying empty, millions of Thais have been without incomes for months.

The hardest hit have been low-income earners living in squalid shantytowns in Bangkok and other urban centers.

Many poorer Thais have to make do with around 1,500 baht a month, which translates into the equivalent of a dollar a day, or even less, according to online testimonials.

Social security for poor people is practically non-existent in the country.

“We are going hungry,” attests Siprapha Prasong, a 58-year-old seamstress who lives in an inner-city slum in Bangkok.

“I barely have any costumers nowadays because people don’t want to spend money. I’ve never had it so bad in my life. I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this.” 

Thailand was once touted as a success story in handling the pandemic thanks to very low infection rates throughout last year, yet a major outbreak this year has been testing the military-allied government, which has been seen to be vacillating while issuing contradictory statements regularly.

They cited the government’s poor communication with the public, its frequently confusing pronouncements and the slow acquisition of vaccines

So far only around 1 percent of the country’s 69 million citizens have been vaccinated, although a nationwide mass vaccination drive is expected to kick off this month.

In another new poll, conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration, more than half of the over 1,300 respondents said they were dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with the government’s handling of the pandemic.

They cited the government’s poor communication with the public, its frequently confusing pronouncements and the slow acquisition of vaccines as the main causes of their dissatisfaction.

Only slightly more than one in 10 Thais said they were very satisfied with their government’s performance during the outbreak.

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