If you think you have had it bad during the worldwide panic over Covid-19**, spare a thought for those on Phuket, the popular Thai island that, before the Thai government locked the country’s borders to most of the world, was one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
After the country’s borders were closed, thousands of tourism-based businesses on Phuket closed, many permanently, and many Thais relying on international tourists suddenly found themselves without jobs as resort towns around the island became ghost towns.
This month, in devastating research carried out by lecturers at the Prince of Songkla University, it was reported the average monthly income on Phuket in 2021 is only 1,961 baht. That is approximately $60 a month.
Now, Thailand may be cheaper than many other countries, but not one person can live on 1,961 baht a month. Not when you take into consideration the cost of accommodation, food, utilities and things like school costs for their children.
As Anchalee Vanich Tephabutra, former Phuket MP and President of the Women Association for Creative Thailand’s Social Development, commented this week, that amount is “considered lower than the poverty line in Thailand”.
Ms. Anchalee made the comment about the average monthly income on Phuket in 2021 during an event to give financial support to students from poor Phuket families that are struggling to pay for basic things like school books, Internet so they can attend online classes and food.
With some students being forced to drop out of school due to their family’s inability to pay for their education various organizations, including the Women Association for Creative Thailand’s Social Development, the Phuket office of the Equitable Education Fund (EEF), the Boon Rawd – Eakkapot Vanich Foundation and the Angels Wings Foundation stepped in with financial assistance.
Extreme poverty on Phuket in 2021
Unfortunately for those still living on Phuket, however, the extreme poverty now being felt by so many has little or no chance of improving until Thailand opens up its borders to international tourists.
And not only to vaccinated tourists, but also to all of those that want to travel to the Thai island, regardless of their vaccination status.
Whether the Thai government of Prayut Chan-o-cha will eventually come to its senses and admit that is the only way to save the country’s economy is anyone’s guess.
Until then, however, tens of thousands of Thais on Phuket will continue to suffer both financially and mental health-wise as the island’s economy fails.
** We always talk about the “Covid-19 panic” here on Tasty Thailand, not because we do not believe there has been a pandemic for the last 18 months, but because we believe and will always believe the government’s reaction to it has been nothing but insanity.
An over reaction that, instead of protecting those most vulnerable and allowing everyone else to get on with their lives as normal, has now subjected much of Thailand to severe financial struggle. A struggle that will likely take a decade or more to overcome, and one that has caused the severe mental illness or physical illness of hundreds of thousands of Thai, along with some suicide deaths due to despair.
After all, Covid-19 still mainly causes the deaths of those over 70 with pre-existing conditions or those who are younger with damaged immune systems. In people who are younger than 70 and healthy, the mortality rate is miniscule.
Meanwhile, with a survival rate across all demographics of approximately 99.8%, the recurring lockdowns, mandatory masks and social distancing have contributed nothing positive to Thailand but have caused a lot of harm.
Including the catastrophic financial situation we now see on Phuket.