Lakkana Punwichai is a writer, commentator and yoga enthusiast. Known to the public as Khaek Kam Phaka (Khaek is her nickname, Kam Phaka is her pen name), the 48-year-old is a regular commentator on Voice TV’s Talking Thailand.
She is recognized for her sharp wits, strong words and no-nonsense commentaries.
Her colleagues sometimes call her “แม่” (mom), which is an affectionate way of referring to a female person of power and influence. When she’s about to deliver a passionate analysis, they would say “watch out for mom.”
With the fierceness and conviction she puts in her words, one would either get goosebumps or cringed, depending on which side of the political divide you are on.
What do you think about the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis?
When the spread started at the end of January and the beginning of February, we should have acted immediately. Quarantined everyone coming in from overseas, create a budget for it. If we had done this, there wouldn’t be any lockdown.
Or, if you had shut down the army-run Lumpini Boxing Stadium, which turned out to be one of the country’s biggest clusters, we wouldn’t be where we are at right now. Also, if you want to lockdown, you should have planned ahead and anticipate people losing their jobs.
Everything the government has done is just fixing problems as they arise, there is no proper vision or planning for anything.
Three things you think the government has done well?
The people handle the situation very well.
I also want to credit the Ministry of Public Health and the Department of Disease Control for increasing test labs so quickly throughout Thailand. Also, the National Health Security Office has done a good job in funding the quarantine.
All the doctors at hospitals and clinics from the district level on up. We are witnessing people triumphing over the limitations that are put on them.
They are doing an unbelievable job.
Three things you think the government has done poorly?
It’s not what they have actually done, it’s the mindset.
It’s unnecessary to give total power to the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). The alcohol ban is unnecessary, it doesn’t make any sense. The curfew doesn’t make any sense. In other countries, to stop the pandemic, the quarantine has to be 24 hours.
For the 5,000 baht program, the people shouldn’t have to “prove” anything. Everyone above the age of 18 should get the 5,000 baht.
Making the people jump through hoops, having to prove ourselves over and over to seek permission to qualify for something, this gives the government too much power.
The people are the owner of the country, not the government.
What’s next for Thailand?
For me, the virus outbreak isn’t the issue. It’s the government that doesn’t represent the people. If we have a government that actually cares about the people, the handling of the pandemic would have been different.
The virus outbreak in Thailand is not that damaging. What’s damaging is the lockdown without proper planning. If we have a government that represents the people, the economy wouldn’t suffer to this extent.
The lockdown is only for controlling the people.
As an outspoken woman, do you face backlash?
Don’t think of it as being outspoken. The frame of mind should be, if there’s something that needs talking about, then let’s talk about it.
I am a writer, so I observe society and express my opinion. It’s not just about being outspoken, it’s about the right to have opinions, which every citizen has the constitutional right to do. It should be normal for everyone. I’m just questioning society.
Whatever backlash people say about me, that’s their business. I don’t have to care. Being outspoken isn’t a bad thing. If someone thinks you’re aggressive, it’s that person’s problem. That person should adapt to a Thai society where people are mature enough to handle opinions, even if they are aggressive.
I feel like being called “แรง” [aggressive] is a compliment.
What do you think of the new generation of Thai women?
The new-gen Thai women are very strong and confident and are critical thinkers. Way, way more than when I was growing up. There isn’t any advice I can give them. I feel like it’s me who needs to learn from them. They are doing well. They are very well informed, brave and well-read.