Thailand: Suicide Rates Skyrocket Among Poor Under Coronavirus Lockdowns

Elderly people line up for food and cash donations from Red Path Party, a Thai political organisation, at a district in Bangkok on April 25, 2020, as Thai citizens are affected by the restrictive measure related to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP) (Photo by ROMEO …
ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images

Thailand’s poor are killing themselves at alarming rates amid a surge in suicides related to the coronavirus pandemic across the country, Thai news outlet Coconuts Bangkok reported on Friday.

At least 22 coronavirus-related suicides have been recorded in Thailand since March 2o, according to an independent study cited by Coconuts. Believed to have the world’s worst wealth inequality rate, poor people in Thailand have been hard-hit by the country’s recent economic slowdown, a byproduct of the lockdown imposed by Thailand last month.

On March 26, Thailand’s government announced a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Bangkok Post. This allowed for a partial lockdown in and outside of Bangkok, the capital, where the majority of businesses were closed. Unable to work for the past month, many Thai citizens living hand-to-mouth before the coronavirus pandemic have reportedly become desperate and suicidal. Most of those have failed to access government financial assistance, which Bangkok promised last month.

More than 24 million Thais registered to receive a monthly government payment of THB 5,000 [$155] over six months, expected to begin on April 8. The aid was intended for contract employees and self-employed workers who are not covered by Thailand’s social security system. According to Coconuts Bangkok, authorities have been unable to pay the monthly stipends, and many “informal workers” who applied for the aid were rejected by Thailand’s finance ministry.

On April 14, dozens of people protested in front of Thailand’s Ministry of Finance building in Bangkok over the department’s mishandling of the coronavirus financial aid. One of the protesters, unable to secure financial assistance through the government program, later killed himself.

Nam Jiamsupa, a 58-year-old Bangkok taxi driver, committed suicide in his home in the capital on April 18, Coconuts Bangkok reported on Thursday. Nam’s son told police that his father had become desperate because he did not have enough money to pay his THB 18,000 [$555] taxi lease for three months, and the THB 5,000 [$155] promised by the government never came.

In March, a mental health crisis hotline run by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health received over 600 calls, compared to only 20 to 40 in each of the previous two months. Calls to the hotline are expected to exceed 600 in April as well, according to Coconuts Bangkok.

At press time on Friday, Thailand had reported 2,854 infections and 50 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.

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