The group of academics urged the government in April to make financial aid more inclusive, claiming that the loss of jobs, and the closure of businesses, has created a desperate situation for many Thais. The scholars are Atthajak Sattayanurak of Chiang Mai University’s Humanities Faculty; Somchai Preechasilpakul, an associate professor of constitutional law at Chiang Mai University; and Prapas Pintobtaeng, lecturer of political science at Chulalongkorn University.
According to the National Statistics Office, 54.3 percent of Thailand’s workforce of 37.5 million people are informal workers. These people receive irregular income, with low wages, and are unprotected by the social security system, leaving them in a very vulnerable position.
As of this writing, 28.8 million people have already applied for the 5,000 baht subsidy, but only 13.4 million qualified, leaving millions of Thais in a desperate situation, with many protesting the decision. Of those eligible, 11 million have already received the money into their account. According to the local press, quoting Lawan Saengsanit, spokesman for the Finance Ministry, the remaining 2.4 million will receive their first payment this week.
The team pointed out that while the government holds daily press briefings on the COVID-19 situation and mobilizes resources to slow the spread of the virus, “it fails to address” the issue of suicide, which could have been prevented with financial assistance to distressed people.
The team of scholars said local authorities should come up with a plan to distribute food and basic goods to people severely affected by the ailing economy. It also suggested that businesses in low-risk areas should be allowed to reopen.
Thailand is well-known for having one of the highest wealth inequalities in the world and one of the highest suicide rates in Southeast Asia. In fact, suicide ranks second among the non-natural causes of death in the country, after traffic accidents, and is more common than homicide, according to government.
A study by the World Health Organization based on 2016 data listed Thailand as having the 32nd highest annual suicide rate in the world, with 14.4 suicides for every 100,000 population, equivalent to 10,000 deaths by suicide per year. Thailand had more suicides per capita than any other Southeast Asian country, with the next highest rate found in Myanmar (9.5 suicides per 100,000 population).
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand help line at (02) 713-6793.
SOURCE: The Diplomat
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