Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited Phuket in person yesterday to welcome foreign tourists and left claiming the island should be “proud of their mission for the country.”
“Phuket Sandbox is not only a matter for Phuket residents. It’s about the people of the whole country, so that the country can move forward in accordance with the mission of re-opening the country in 120 days,” he said.
However, business owners and workers in Patong remain cautious and worried, largely due to the fact that most entertainment venues must continue to remain closed.
Phuket Provincial Public Relations Chief Bussaya Chaipeum told The Phuket News Thai-language sister newspaper Khao Phuket today that pubs and bars in all areas of Phuket must remain closed until further provincial orders are issued.
This was not welcome news for the many workers in the nighlife hub of Patong who have struggled with a lack of income as a result of the enforced closures for well over a year.
A woman who wanted to be named only as “Sao” told Khao Phuket that she used to work as a housekeeper in a small guest house in Patong, but she has been unemployed and has not received any income for over a year.
“I have not worked full-time for a year. Now I am doing freelance cleaning work. I accept all offers for work, but there are not many offers at the moment,” Sao said.
She explained that her former employer has still helped her by letting her stay in staff accommodation and providing food. Sao is sharing her accommodation with a co-worker and giving some of her saving to her.
“If I can help other people, I always do,” Sao said. “I cannot stand to see anyone become homeless. When I have problems, they may come and help me. However, today I am satisfied to help others.”
Elsewhere, a masseuse who works for a massage shop in front of Patong beach, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that her income that used to total several thousand baht a day has now become zero. She added that she has been forced to spend her savings and sell her jewellery in order to cover her living costs and survive.
“I have not provided a massage to anyone for over three weeks,” she said.
“There simply are no customers. Before the pandemic and the restrictions I had customers from all over the world and would receive around B500 per massage plus tips.
“I have had to sell all of my gold jewellery and accessories in order to cover basic living costs,” she added.
“When the local administrative organisation opens for registration to receive survival bags, I am one of the people who will not miss the chance. If anyone donates food, I am always in the line to get some because it is a key way to survive.
“I really hope that the sandbox will bring tourists to Phuket so that we can start to earn some income again, even if it is only one or two people per day,” the lady concluded.