Charity runner and rock singer Artiwara ‘Toon Bodyslam’ Kongmalai, in this archive photo from October 27, 2019. Kao Kon La Kao’s Facebook page
With the dark shadow of the Omicron variant looming, the year 2022, which is only a week away, was never going to be a year of unspeakable happiness for most people around the world, including Thailand. .
The variant of the coronavirus has now spread to more than 100 countries and is the dominant variant among new infections in the United States and several other countries.
In Thailand, more than 200 cases had been confirmed by Friday. The numbers will rise soon, but the pace will hopefully not be as fast as that seen in several Western countries as most Thais wear their face masks when they are outside and do not think their freedom is theirs. has been removed when wearing them. Most will also be vaccinated willingly.
The government’s decision last week to reimpose the quarantine on fully vaccinated foreign arrivals from 63 countries and territories considered to be low risk under the “Test & Go” program, instead of closing the door to all arrivals as is sees in some countries, appears to be based on an economic judgment to save the hard-hit tourism sector which is just starting to recover and the belief that the healthcare system is capable of containing the Omicron variant.
Whether this decision is fair or not, we will know very soon.
But what is certain is that the overly optimistic forecast from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) that up to 400,000 foreign tourists will have visited Thailand by the end of the year since the country reopened. on November 1 and up to 18 million tourists the next year will be shattered due to Omicron concerns.
The year 2022 will be another difficult year for people working in tourism and nightlife entertainment industries such as bars and pubs. Forget the prospect that the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will allow these places to reopen on January 16.
Millions of people who have relied on the 50:50 co-payment system to pay for their food and other necessities are likely to be more frugal on their spending over the next two months at least as the government decided to suspend the system and resume it in March and April.
As consumers spend less, tens of thousands of small retailers who benefit from the program will see their revenues reduced. No explanation from the government as to why the regime will resume in March. Is the government broke?
The only group of people who don’t feel the economic pain are government officials because they still have their jobs and salaries paid for by suffering taxpayers.
As for the government, its political stability will be further tested in Parliament by the opposition which appears to want to play games to force Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to dissolve Parliament and call an election. general anticipated.
The game is to stay away from parliament or to refuse to declare one’s presence in the hemicycle to bring about the collapse of House meetings for lack of a quorum.
This means that chief government whips have to work harder to ensure that there are enough government members in the House, especially when there is an important bill to debate.
But the task is easier said than done because of the internal conflict within the central government party, the Palang Pracharat Party, between the prime minister and former agriculture minister Thamanat Prompow.
Outside parliament, street protests by anti-establishment groups demanding the repeal of Article 112 of the Penal Code or the lese majesté law and the release of detained protest leaders are expected to increase alongside political games in parliament to destabilize the government.
A change of government after the election is seen as a way to resolve several issues at once, such as the lèse majesté law and the plight of detained protest leaders.
The political divide between pro and anti-monarchy factions appears to have reached a new low, as evidenced by tens of thousands of reactions to the 109km charity run offered by rock singer Toon Bodyslam from Jan.1 to Feb.28 to raise funds for 109 students of Mathayom 3 so that they can continue their studies in vocational schools.
The questions most frequently asked by online critics are “Why run?” Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to ensure that students are educated? “
Some even suggested that the charity run was meant to promote the monarchy, citing the distance of 109 km, which they numerically interpret as coming from King Rama 10 and King Rama 9. Another suggested Toon should join the campaign to rewrite the constitution to make it binding. that the government provide free education to all students who want to learn.
The questions are legitimate, without a doubt. But what’s wrong with the race, which is apolitical and purely for a good cause to help distressed students.
Yes, the government is responsible for providing free education to all Thais. But not everyone can study at school for various reasons. Some are too poor to afford the travel from home or the cost of accommodation. Others may have to help families make ends meet.
What’s wrong with Toon helping these 109 college students achieve their dreams? What is wrong if someone offers a helping hand to a sick person lying on a trail? Should we leave the patient unattended and wait for the government to come to their rescue because it is their responsibility as these extreme critics suggest?
Thai society will be a more peaceful and livable place if we are more humane and offer a helping hand, if we can, to those in distress.
There are more challenges ahead of us over the coming year, and they are surely more important than arguing for Toon’s good cause.
Former editor of Bangkok Post, political commentator and regular columnist at Post Publishing.