Interest in moving out of Thailand takes Internet by storm

In just two days, over half a million Thais have joined a new Facebook group called “Let’s Move Abroad”, amid increasing criticism of the Thai government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic and political issues.

Countless posts by over 524,500 members of the group ask for tips on studying and working abroad in certain fields, while those who have lived abroad promoted countries where they stayed with beautiful photos.

Among countries of most apparent interest are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Malaysia. Many members also sympathise with the current anti-government movement.

“I really dislike this country in terms of its system of governing and certain people. I want to change the country, but I think relocating is easier,” said Piyawat Janta, a member who is looking to the US.

“The group was created to compile information on life in other countries and to exchange tips on how to move abroad, like how to obtain visas etc. It’s not aimed at taking political jabs, although it’s undeniable that this interest in moving abroad also political, otherwise there wouldn’t be this many members,” said the creator and administrator of the group, who wished to remain anonymous.

The creator, who owns seven restaurants and pubs in Bangkok, and has been impacted financially by the government’s restrictive measures, most notably the current ban on dining in and on-site alcohol consumption, said he has been thinking about doing business elsewhere for a while, but the last straw was the government’s mishandling of the pandemic and the failures of the country’s justice system.

He cited the repeated denial of bail for prominent anti-establishment leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who has been on hunger strike for almost 50 days and is now in hospital.

“I initially expected something like 50 members. I believe it’s the hopelessness in this country that got so many people joining the group,” the businessman said, adding “but this doesn’t mean we don’t care about our country. We can leave responsibly and continue to push for positive change from afar,” he added.

Thailand has been suffering a third wave of COVID-19 infections since early April, which began in clusters in Thonglor nightclubs, resulting in a new round of restrictive measures that have ordered many venues to close. The new wave is spreading much faster than last year, with almost new 2,000 infections a day, due to more transmissible new variants of the virus.

Over 1.47 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Thailand to date. About 200,000 people over 60 and in at risk groups have registered for the British AstraZeneca vaccine, now being manufactured in Thailand for delivery in June.

As of today, a petition, to oust Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul for the slow vaccine rollout and failure to prevent the new wave, has attracted over 36,000 signatures.

By Hathai Techakitteranun

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As Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul is being blamed for perceived failures in handling Thailand’s latest and worst wave of COVID-19, whose tide of infections and deaths has triggered partial lockdowns in red zones including Bangkok.


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