As we are dealing with fear and uncertainty during the pandemic, controversy arises around the “New Normal” that Thais must adapt to. Dr. Chadchart Sittipunt, the former Transportation Minister who has been called “the strongest minister in the world”, gives us an interview on how to adapt to the future we must face and how we can move forward together without leaving anyone behind.
The Pandemic that heightens Bangkok’s vulnerabilities
“The vulnerable communities in Bangkok tend to be those who live from hand to mouth. 59% of Thai households have fewer assets than three months worth of expenses. The government must develop a transparent “database” as basic infrastructure”. Dr. Chadchart also emphasizes that the housing problem of the vulnerable groups which account for roughly 10% of Bangkok population must be actively handled because housing brings a sense of security, which in turn will lead to an opportunity to build a secure community and society.
The next step is “Trust Thailand”
Dr. Chadchart says that the new normal is not easy to predict because it all depends on how the country collectively decides to move forward. One of the everyday issues that he picks as an example is walking and public space. “Public space must be dispersed like a small park near each neighbourhood so that it’s easily accessible. And “walking” is important. It’s about social distance. We must make improvements in various dimensions to promote urban walking and public transportation.”
Looking at the big picture of Thailand from now on, Dr. Chadchart predicts that the possibility of bringing the country back as close to the old normal as can be depends on the keyword “trust” and how to rebuild it in every dimension. “Trust” is the strategy to revive the city. How to become the “Trust Destination”: from the country level to company and individual? If Thailand is safe with good public health system and well-disciplined people who join hands in preventing the outbreak, we can build that trust. How to rebuild the tourists’ confidence? It must begin with our public health system: from Isolate, Test, Treat, Trace. And we may have to make an agreement with other countries.
And trust applies not only with tourists; it also means trust in one another. If we build a strong public health system, we can be an exclusive supply chain which means that other countries accept us as an exporter. If there’s another outbreak, we won’t stumble. That’s the building of our trust on a supply chain level. Or even as an individual, if we take good care of our health and act considerately to ensure that we don’t pose a risk towards people around us, we can build trust and confidence and the economy should strengthen quicker. There’re many factors to this but I think that trust is one interesting way.
Interview Date : 12 May 2020
Interview : Sirion Rhimpranee | Edit : Wanpen Boonpen | Image : Surachet Soparattanadilok