BANGKOK — With millions of people expected to lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, handouts of food and other essentials become increasingly more important to the poor.
But one cannot just set up a table and give out your pad krapao or cash. Regulations on gatherings during the pandemic mean there are steps donors must take, lest they face the consequences of the law.
A good example to follow is a recent handout event held on Tuesday afternoon next to Wat Thewarat Khunchon in Dusit district. There, Nuttinee Chavananikul, a senior employee of a food company, and 14 of his friends handed out food to locals with help from the authorities.
Here’s how she did it. Start by contacting your district office, or khet, and let them know about the donation plans.
Once informed, the district office will find the most suitable locations for you; usually they are located close to communities of low-income earners.
Local community leaders will then be alerted. Coupons will be handed out to community leaders in advance with the amount corresponding with the number of food packages to be handed out.
And on the day of handouts, police and City Hall officials will be present at the event to apply temperature checks and ensure that physical distancing is in place.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nuttinee and her friends were giving out 300 packed meals. Recipients, who have to wear facial masks, have a choice of Hainanese chicken rice, known as khao mun gai in Thai, or rice and roasted duck topping. Each pack, she said, costs about 35 baht.
She said she wants to help out locals and support food shops during the pandemic at the same time.
“But we also want to help small shops serving food that can hardly survive, or those who do not know how to do online delivery,” Nuttinee said. “We visited many small eateries.”
Nuttinee, wearing a mask and face shield, inspected the packed dinners on two tables herself before distribution began to make sure everything was in order. There was no company logo or sponsorship to be found; this was purely a charity of ordinary people, similar to what Thailand has seen in other provinces recently.
Officials from the City Hall shuffled the queues into place. Dusit district director Dicha Kongsri told the crowd that the district office was “merely a bridge” for this day’s charity.
He later told me there are 44 urban poor communities in Dusit, home to 96,000 people. Those neighborhoods are usually chosen for charities like the one organized by Nuttinee.
“We will consider the poorer communities first,” Dicha said.
As the line grew, it was apparent that some who queued up are as old as people in the 70s while the youngest was six. A security guard from a nearby office building also dropped by.
The security guard, Therdsak Thaensab said he heard about the free food from the community and asked for a coupon handed before picking up the packed food. He said free food helps; although he’s still employed, the economic situation is tough.
Then there is Pamoon Moonsrinuan, an a maid in her 50s with her partially paralyzed son, picking up two packs.
Another man, Pongpetch Maekkaifah, 60, is a resident of the community. He is unemployed.
“This is the second time we came for food. I don’t know the givers personally. It’s helpful,” Pongpetch said.
It’s clear that many in the queues would need more assistance than a meal, and Nuttinee said she was fully aware that her help had its limitations.
“I think no matter how much we help it won’t be enough. There are so many people facing hardship,” Nuttinee said. “If you can do something, please do whatever you can.”
The government has come under scrutiny for its perceived reluctance to provide financial assistance to those in need. Cash handouts for those living with disabilities and farmers were only approved after weeks of debate.
Tuesday won’t be Nuttinee’s last effort of charity. She and her friends have one more week of food handouts around Bangkok to go before their pooled money of 200,000 baht runs out.