Somboon Kongka is 49 years old. She works seven days a week as a motorbike taxi driver. Before COVID-19, she was making up to 400 baht a day. Before PM2.5, she was making up to 600 baht per day.
At 5pm on the day of this interview, she said, “Since this morning, I made 90 baht in total.”
The 90 baht might be enough if Somboon has only herself to take care of. But she has a family. At home, Somboon has a 66-year-old mother, a 26-year-old daughter who has mentally disabilities and a 45-year-old brother who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
“My mom would cook for the family. I would buy the groceries,” she said of the family’s normal routine.
On top of groceries, Somboon also pays for all the bills at the house and she still has two more years left to pay off her motorbike lease.
Somboon’s workday starts from 4am and normally ends at 6pm. During school term, she would take Sunday off to study for a high school equivalency diploma.
Like all her motorbike-taxi friends, she applied for the government’s ‘No One Left Behind’ program. The sum of 5,000 baht per month over the three months would go a long way to help her take care of her family.
Her occupation qualifies her for government assistance. Motorbike taxi drivers are classified as freelancers.
“I applied because the government said freelancers like ‘win motorsai’ could apply and would be qualified for the money,” said Somboon. “I am properly registered with the yellow license plate, but they said I was a student.”
School and university students are not qualified for the financial aid. But Somboon, at 49 years old, just wanted to get a high school equivalency diploma.
Human error? Computer glitch? In our coverage of the 5,000 baht scheme, many people have been disqualified due an error.
Yesterday, when protestors—who were mainly taxi drivers—gathered at the Finance ministry, many of them complained that they were identified as farmers and hence disqualified.
In our article from Monday, we found others who have been disqualified wrongly. There’s a spa worker disqualified as a farmer. There’s also a restaurant worker, who takes classes at a non-accredited school, and was disqualified as a student.
“I work day-to-day. I have no savings,” Somboon said and also told us of a fellow motorbike taxi driver who’s disqualified as a business owner.
“Things are really difficult right now,” she explained. “If the government can’t help us individually, then 5,000 baht per month for every household would be okay. If that’s not possible, then at least cancel electricity and water bills for three months.
“No one is hiring right now,” she said. “There’s not enough food to eat. We can’t even collect garbage to sell.”