The men were covered head to toe in bright yellow protective gear. Wrapped around their feet and their torsos were white plastic bags to offer an added degree of protection. The body was also wrapped in a white bag and the men struggled in their attire to carry it to the waiting car.
Scenes like these played out multiple times over the last few days in the Khlong Toey slums where a new Covid-19 outbreak has threatened the thousands of lives that live there. Crowded, densely packed, and with poor sanitation, the authorities worry that an outbreak here could be the straw that breaks the back of Thai healthcare system.
The system is already overstretched as it is, field hospitals are being set up throughout the country to deal with capacity-filled hospitals. Bangkok, where the current outbreak started on April 1, is no different.
Let us not forget how this pandemic started, at the super-luxurious “entertainment” venues in Bangkok’s upscale Ekamai and Thonglor districts. Entertainment is in quotes because it is the euphemism that the government are using so let’s humor them for a paragraph.
The truth is the outbreak started in upscale brothels filled with Bangkoks finest socialites and politicians including members of the current government. For a government that likes to preach about morality and doing the right thing, it is highly ironic that one of their cabinet minister (and his entourage) caught Covid at a whorehouse.
But the minister is not alone, a number of Bangkok’s princelings and CEOs frequent the same clubs whose name have now become infamous. There they caught Covid and spread it to their wives, sons, and daughters who then attended weddings and parties causing a virtual shut down of Bangkok high society.
While fraternization between the classes mostly happens in restaurants and brothels, the virus has no socially-constructed limitations. The glass ceiling present throughout Thai society may limit social mobility but it does not stop the virus. It has spread like wildfire to fresh markets, local communities, and now the slums.
Of course the same people that started this latest outbreak are also the same people that voted for this government. The princelings, the CEOs, the heiress’, the upper crust all were only too happy to blow whistles and welcome the coup in 2014 calling it a reset of Thai society.
Now as the military-backed government of Thailand jumps from one mismanagement to the next, they only have themselves to blame for being so welcoming to the generals. Let us call a spade, a spade here. The government has screwed up its covid response entirely. No one is vaccinated, we don’t even have vaccines. Our healthcare system is stretched. They didn’t lock down the country when they could ahead of Songkran – the biggest mass movement of people during the course of the entire year. They have failed every test thrown at them in the last few months and the blame should rest not only with them but the people that ushered in their rule.
And now the poor are dying. Don’t worry about the rich, they generally do okay in this society. Already many of them are planning overseas trips to go shopping and get vaccinated in western countries.
Already they are planning retreats to extended stays in their mansions and condos in Hyde Park or the Upper Westside.
But the poor are still dying.
And the scenes that we see this week, with tired healthcare volunteers moving plastic covered bodies, will play out repeatedly over and over again.
I suppose in a way the rich and the generals did reset Thai society. I am just not sure their intention was to reset it back to the Stone Age.