Musicians and entertainment professionals petition government for Covid-19 assistance

On 1 July, the Thailand Nightlife and Entertainment Business Association (NEBA) went to Parliament to submit an open letter to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, to follow up on their previous demands for assistance for workers in the nightlife and entertainment industry who have been affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.

NEBA representatives and a group of musicians at parliament (Picture from NEBA)  

Representatives of NEBA, along with well-known musicians including the pop bands Cocktail, Slot Machine, Tattoo Colour, and Apartment Khunpa, went to Parliament to inquire about their previous demands for assistance and submit an open letter calling for the government to start a discussion on relief measures.

The NEBA previously submitted 4 petitions between 11 June -29 June 2021.

The group asked for entertainment places to be allowed to reopen on 1 August 2021, or for the authorities to specify a reopening date. They also asked for on-site alcohol sales and performances to be allowed while still following disease control measures, as well as for vaccines to be allocated for nightlife and entertainment professionals.

The group also asked for a clear policy for assistance, a moratorium, and soft loans for people who have been affected by the lockdown, and to allow members of the affected sector to participate in the policymaking process. They also asked for the opening of a channel for hearing the problems and comments from people.

The statement from the group representative said that the orders under the Emergency Decree directly affected everyone in the nightlife and entertainment industry, from business owners to employees and daily wage workers such as freelance musicians, waiters, and street food vendors. There are also still people who do not received any assistance from the government.

Meanwhile, Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward Party who also signed the letter, said that the government should pay attention to the nightlife and entertainment industry because they were the first group to be affected by disease control measures and they have been hit harder than others.

Since the 1st wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government issued disease control measures which included the closure of nightlife and entertainment establishments, so people working there were immediately affected.

Under the disease control measures, restaurants are allowed to offer dine-in services until 21.00 and takeaways until 23.00, and they must also reduce the number of customers to follow social distancing policy, and on-site alcohol sales are not allowed. The measures also included the closure of entertainment establishments, such as bars, karaoke parlours, cinemas, exhibition centres, and performance spaces, while any event which includes more than 20 people must get prior permission.

Commoner Band Shows Support

The Commoner Band, who is often seen performing at protests, also staged a performance by the Parliament compound to show support for their colleagues, and to hold a memorial event for Prakaifa Pooldoung, a YouTuber and freelance musician who committed suicide on 26 June, after the Covid-19 lockdown measures cost her her job and income.

Her picture was displayed on a guitar, and the audience were invited to place pink roses in her memory.

A participant placing a rose in front of a picture of Prakaifa Pooldoung, a YouTuber and freelance musician who committed suicide on 26 June, after the Covid-19 lockdown measures cost her her job and income.

Bandmember Tananchai Krithep told Prachatai that the band wanted to show support for the musicians who came to submit the open letter.

“In the name of the Commoner Band, we thought about what we can do to show support. The only thing we think of is to play music. Also, before that, there are our friends, brothers and sisters, who committed suicide, no matter if they were musicians or regular people. Their frustration made us want to express ourselves to remember our dead friends, who died, who committed suicide. It was not only their fault, but it is the government’s fault that they do not manage properly for better quality of life for people. Therefore, we came to play music to support the petition.” said Tananchai

“About adapting, our friends had always adapted without the government having to tell them to, but this is the 3rd wave, 4th wave already. It is too much. At least aid money should be distributed, but there is still nothing. We, as the Commoner Band, call for universal state welfare,” said Tananchai, who said that members of Commoner band had always adapted for trying to make a living throughout the pandemic.

Tananchai called for assistance of 5,000 baht per month for everyone, which he said should be paid directly and not through applications. He also urged people, musicians, and famous artists to speak out, especially about the vaccine monopoly. He said that vaccines have to be effective, and people must be able to access Covid-19 testing easily.

From left: Commoner Band members
Chuveath Dethdittharak, Natthapong Phukaew, and Tananchai Krithep performing by the parliament compound

Tananchai said that state welfare, such as free education, universal healthcare, and universal basic income, are basic rights, and should not be provided by donations.

He added that he supports the formation of a musicians’ union to address issues faced by musicians and workers in the nightlife and entertainment industry. He said that music is not just entertainment but is also a profession, so musicians should be treated as equal to other professions. 

“Music is not just entertainment that you forced on us. Some nights, our friends are unhappy, but they have to perform and have to act like they’re happy in front of the customers. It’s a profession, so you should see it as equal to being a civil servant, and give us the same welfare,” said Tananchai.

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