Opinion: The government is creating an income barrier for its aid, leaving behind the poorest and most vulnerable

A couple of days ago, my mother, told me that she had registered to receive a survival bag (ถุงยังชีพ) from the government.

After a few days, the bag arrived at my home. The pack consists of a tray of eggs, a bag of 5kg rice, cooking oil, fish sauce, 10 canned fish, a pack of face masks, and the last but most important thing, a sign that reads “No one is left behind.”

One bag is limited to one household.

There was no information given on whether this is a one-time package or one of many.

For the past two weeks, news of financial support and food distribution or lack thereof has made headlines. Yet a lack of communication from municipalities and the government has caused anxiety and hardship for those less fortunate than us.

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Lack of communication

For many Thais being left behind by the government, the lack of communication is the main barrier between aid and isolation.

The government sends many of its communication through social media and through online platforms creating an income barrier that was both unnecessary and problematic.

For example, the aid program that my mother applied for was only disseminated through LINE application. An unnecessary barrier.

The poorest Thais have no access to the internet or access to a smartphone. This group of people is both the most vulnerable to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak and the ones least likely to find out about any potential aid the government may have.

While the 5,000 baht scheme has become notorious and information about it has certainly filtered down to the grassroots, other aid programs like the municipal care packages are less known and will not reach the grassroots who do not have access to the information being shared alone.

The government has done nothing to rectify this.

Problematic criteria

The government has created additional barriers for the poor to receive aid.

In order to be eligible for the support, one must be registered as an owner or a resident of a house. This means that if you are a tenant, you are disqualified. If you do not have a house? You are disqualified.

But how many Thais own a house? And what of the homeless?

While there is no doubting the sincerity of the aid programs, once again the Thai central government and provincial governments have turned a blind eye to the poorest in our society.

By creating barriers, by failing to communicate effectively, the government is sentencing the most vulnerable sector of our society to destruction. Having been ignored and forgotten even before the coronavirus outbreak, the poor of our society must once again fend for themselves.

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