This is a new semi-regular spotlight in which we will highlight real personal stories and experiences from the local Pattaya community of actual area residents who have been affected by the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis, the nearly four month lock-down and the still in progress closure of international borders which has decimated the tourism, entertainment and hospitality industries in Thailand.
Ms. Waewphet Sompon first fell into trouble in early April, as a ban on incoming international flights to Thailand took place and hotels began to either close or scale back staff.
Thailand enacted an emergency decree to control the Covid-19 Coronavirus and non essential business began to shut. Waewphet had worked as an assistant head chef at a hotel in the Naklua area for many years and told The Pattaya News she made a comfortable, yet modest living. She was able to provide for herself and her two small dogs, which are her pride and joy, pictured below. They live in a tiny, yet comfortable, apartment in the Na Jomtien area, heavily decorated with religious artifacts and symbols as Ms. Waewphet, even in the current situation, remains highly religious and optimistic for the future.
In early April, her hotel management informed her they had made the decision to terminate her employment. She had little savings and had mostly lived paycheck to paycheck she told The Pattaya News. She applied for social security but stated she had difficulties with the program and had still not been paid out for this nor other financial support payments offered during the Thailand pandemic lock-down. She managed to survive up to this point but says she is now running out of options.
Waewphet stated that now that the lock-down has eased in Thailand and all business restrictions lifted internally she has been spending every single day looking for a job in the Pattaya, Jomtien and Naklua area but has had no success. She stated that she only has a sixth grade education and coupled with the fact a large majority of hotels have yet to re-open she has been unable to locate any form of employment in her field as an assistant chef. She stated every restaurant she has tried to apply to have no positions available and, like hotels, many have decided not to re-open until tourists can return to the Pattaya area. Her lack of education has also stopped her from getting many potential roles. She considers Na Jomtien her home and has, for some time now, survived with the assistance of her neighbors who have also helped keep her dogs fed.
Her neighbors contacted the Pattaya Press Association this morning who helped get this story into our Thai side, which we also chose to translate to the English side. Waewphet recently was unable to pay her electricity and water bills and both have been shut off leaving her and the dogs in an uncomfortable environment. She told associated reporters that she is likely only one small step from being homeless if she cannot find work. Finding a job was also made more difficult as her phone had broken previously, she added.
According to her neighbors, she often would skip meals to ensure her dogs were fed and taken care of. Her neighbors assisted with small amounts of money for various jobs completed in the local community but they wanted to help her get a permanent source of employment. Waewphet stated to reporters she doesn’t want charity or donations, she wants an opportunity to prove herself and return to work to provide for her pets and herself.
As of press time this evening several comments on the Thai side of our news, where neighbor’s contact information was published, stated that she may have now secured a job due to our Thai coverage. We will provide an update on this situation once we get confirmed information.
Waewphet’s situation, although tragic, is one of likely tens of thousands in the Pattaya area. As Pattaya traditionally relies on tourism for roughly eighty percent of its overall revenue, the city has been hit by the impact of the travel bans and lack of international tourism harder than nearly anywhere in Thailand, save for maybe some of the islands popular with tourists. With no sign of the pandemic lessening worldwide and Thailand pursuing an “elimination strategy” of the Covid-19 Coronavirus VS. a suppression strategy, it is unlikely that borders are opened anytime soon.
Until then, Waewphet and many others will have to fight the best that they can to take care of themselves and those that they love.