Woman breaks down after officers seize her rice porridge donations

Update: Police later posted photos of themselves handing out the woman’s rice porridge.

A woman in Nakhon Pathom broke down in tears during a live stream after all of her food, intended for people in need, was seized by the authorities.

The woman, on Facebook as Fern Pannamjai, was about to hand out 250 bags of rice porridge and 50 lunchboxes Monday afternoon to people at the Phra Pathom Chedi in western metro Bangkok when it was seized by the authorities to prevent a crowd from gathering. 

“I’m sorry for promising that I would keep giving out the food until the situation was better,” she later said in a live video. “But the government has their measures under the Emergency Decree, so I had to give the food to them instead, and they said they would hand it out later.”

Fern had earlier announced via Facebook that she would give out 300 meals. Later Monday afternoon, she drove the food to the landmark in a truck and was streaming video when she was approached by municipal enforcers who took them away, saying she would cause crowds to gather and risk spreading the coronavirus.

Thailand on Tuesday reported another 19 cases and one death due to COVID-19. That brings the reported total to 2,811 infections and 48 fatalities since the outbreak began. 

Fern said she was “hurt” by the incident.

“I’m hurt that those people who waited to receive the food didn’t get to eat it … I’m sorry for you for having you waited. I truly understand. I understand how it feels not having food to eat. I understand that this meal, you waited to have our rice porridge. But I couldn’t give it to you. I’m sorry.”

The economy was already slumping when the virus hit, and low-income Thais have been particularly hard hit. Long queues have formed outside official food distribution efforts provided by the government and charities.

The incident happened the same day another Bangkok woman was fined THB500 (US$15) for breaching social distancing orders by handing out food near Hua Lamphong, aka the Bangkok Railway Station. 

The latest death attributed to the virus was a 50-year-old taxi driver said to have been infected by passengers he took to the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, an army-owned facility where a large outbreak occurred, according to Taweesilp Vissanuyothin of the Disease Control Department. 

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