Corona Chronicles – Life under COVID-19

Cover image credit: istock.com/oonal

How is the COVID-19 outbreak in Isaan affecting your life?

— Do you have someone in your family directly affected?

— Do you know of others who have been affected?

— Are you a business owner who’s been affected?

— Has your work situation changed since the outbreak?

— What is your city/town/village doing about the crisis?

We strongly encourage you to share information with us through Facebook messenger or send us an email at YourStory@isaanrecord.com

You can also give us a call at 081-708-1852

April 25, 2020 – Suriyapon Wisetsungnoen, 46, from Buriram’s Nong Hong district, tells the story of how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted her life. 

“Since the governor of Buriram banned market stalls at the beginning of the month–because they were afraid of COVID-19 spreading in the markets–my husband and I have had no income at all. We made money by selling fresh chicken, boiled chicken, and ma-la chicken at the evening market in Nong Hong. We switched to selling the chicken at the front gate of our home. But we hardly get any customers because it’s not a very good location, and everyone else is trying to save money, too.” 

“It’s been about two months without our usual 500-600-baht daily income. I’m feeling really stressed out and depressed. We had to dig into our savings in order to survive, and that’s running out, too. We have to feed seven people at home, so even though we’re economizing as best as we can with the food, it’s just not enough. We can’t even afford to buy household essentials other than food; it’s all on credit at the shop.”

“I registered for the 5,000-baht-a-month aid money, but haven’t heard anything from them yet. I don’t want to pin my hopes on that, though. I’d much rather the governor reopen the evening markets so that we stallholders can start selling again because the morning markets are still open as normal! If this goes on for much longer, I’ll have to borrow money with daily interest just to eat.”

April 17, 2020 – Event organizers in the Northeast have been hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nittaya Chukasem, 54, is the owner of an event production company from Nakhon Ratchasima’s Dan Khun Thot district. Usually one of the busiest times of the year, he hasn’t had any jobs this month. 

“All the stage employees, the sound system people, and the band had their last gig on March 20. After that, no more jobs came in because the government ordered all parties and gatherings to stop, afraid of COVID spreading and all that. So all the employees–the dancers, the roadies, everyone–are out of a job and my family no longer has an income. 

“We haven’t had any work for a month now. Normally, this is the time of the year when there’d be lots of performances, day and night, every single day, until the end of Songkran. We’d make about 20,000 baht a day. This year we had to make the decision to let five of our employees go home. We can’t even afford to just look after them and feed them, let alone pay them a wage.”

“I said to my wife and kids that we’ll just have to set up shop and sell something, do something small like that just to get by for the time being, until we realized that we don’t even have the capital for that. Every day, I’m paying off debts at a daily rate. I borrowed the money at the beginning of March to meet personal expenses and look after my employees.”

“Our whole family has applied for the [5,000 baht per month] government aid money. The system said that it’s still checking whether we meet the criteria. I recommend that the government should process people in batches. For example, accept applications from nothing but musicians or music industry workers for a certain time period. That’d make it easier for them to check.”


April 15, 2020 – Lamyai Suphon, 51, from Amnat Charoen City shares with The Isaan Record the financial woes he is experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“I drive a song-thaew on the route between Amnat Charoen City and Nayom subdistrict. COVID-19 really put a dent in my income because people just aren’t going out and about. The markets don’t even have any vendors, so nobody’s using song-thaew anymore. Before I was making almost 400 baht a day, which was enough for me to get by. These days I make a little over 100 baht a day, just enough to cover fuel costs.”
 
“Every day I’m worried about where I’m going to get 1,000 baht a day to pay my debts. I borrowed money that I have to pay back at a daily rate. It’s weighing heavy on my mind, it really is. I borrowed the money to shore up my daily expenses, buy food, make my 2,500 baht a month vehicle payment, my motorcycle payment, and pay for my kids to go to school. Last month was the toughest. I had to spend a lot of cash fixing my song-thaew, otherwise I couldn’t use it to make any money at all.”
 
“The next song-thaew payment is due next week on April 20. I think I’ll go and see the finance people, see if I can get them to freeze the payments for now. I just don’t have the money. Yesterday, I phoned one of my children who is working in Chonburi. They didn’t have any money either because they’re also out of work.”
 
“My only hope now is the 5,000-baht aid money from the government. That’d help to ease things up a bit.”
 
The song-thaeo of Lamyai Suphon in Amnat Charoen City.
 

April 14, 2020 – Rinda Butwiset, a 40-year-old native of Udon Thani’s Kumphawapi district, tells of her struggles amidst the COVID-19 outbreak via The Isaan Record’s inbox. 

“Would the government please take a good look at us? We’re suffering here.”

“My husband and I rent a shophouse at the Kumphawapi district bus station in Udon Thani. We’ve been selling noodles and khao man kai [Hainanese Chicken rice] for the past five years. Before the government ordered people to self-quarantine, we were making a profit of about 600-700 per day. Now it’s down to just 100-200 baht a day because there are fewer buses coming into the station. People aren’t travelling anywhere. I can’t stop thinking about whether we’re going to have enough to pay the rent. The rent is 3,500 baht a month. Luckily, school is closed for our two boys; otherwise we just wouldn’t be able to send them to school.”

“I’m not saying that I disagree with the government’s policy, but they really ought to take a good look at us down here. We’re the ones who have to deal with the consequences of your policies. This isn’t an election campaign where you can just talk yourself up and make yourself look good.”

“We registered for the 5,000-baht-a-month government aid money. The system told us that we don’t meet the criteria even though it was the government that said everyone would get it. They’re liars.”

“If the government was genuine about helping people like us, they’d have officials come around to check whether we really meet the criteria instead of letting a computer make things up for them. People who are in real hardship aren’t getting the help.”

The restaurant of Rinda Butwiset at a bus station in Udon Thani’s Kumphawapi district.
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