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Pattaya Daily News

22 April 2014 :: 13:04:20 pm 84758

Thai Political Crisis a Boon for Some Street-Smart Entrepreneurs

A wise Bangkok’s motorcycle taxi driversdeveloped a lucrative side business lining up along the street for much of the night to help his customers renew their passports.
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BANGKOK–Thailand’s political crisis has been a boon to some of Bangkok’s motorcycle taxi drivers. Take Dejchat Phuangket, for instance. He has developed a lucrative side business lining up along the street for much of the night to help his customers renew their passports.

The mass protests that have convulsed the Thai capital for most of this year have disrupted many basic government services, including passport applications and renewals. Instead of going to the main government complex in the north of the city, protests and blockades there have forced Thais to go to a series of remote locations around the city.

The problem could soon get worse. After a break for Thailand’s New Year holidays, rival political groups are preparing for another round of mass protests to accompany an investigation into whether Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra mishandled a multibillion-dollar rice-subsidy program. She denies any wrongdoing, but if Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission finds her guilty she would face an impeachment trial in the Senate.

The problem for ordinary Thais amid all this turbulence is that the government’s temporary passport offices find it hard to keep up with demand and are plagued by long lines and other delays.

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That is where Mr. Dejchat fits in. For a fee, he and others like him will sleep on the sidewalk outside to make sure they are among the first in line when the temporary passport offices open at 7 a.m.He began his side job several months ago when one of his regular passengers offered him 1,200 Thai baht, or about $32, to line up for her at the passport office. Word quickly spread, and Mr. Dejchat now does this for about nine clients a day–or night–earning him about 40,000 baht, or some $1,240, a month.

On a recent night, Mr. Dejchat arrived outside the Central department store in Bangna, eastern Bangkok, with a sleeping map, a pillow, a bottle of water and a generous supply of bug spray.

The new business has changed his daily routine. Often Mr. Dejchat goes to bed at 8 p.m. and gets up at 11 p.m. to make his way to the passport office, where he camps out until his clients appear before the passport office, which hands out official queue cards at 7:30 a.m.

He passes spends much of his free time outside the passport office on Twitter, where he goes by the handle “@motorcyrubjang.” He has a substantial following online. When a suspected terrorist fleeing police lost his legs when a bomb exploded in 2012, Mr. Dejchat was among the first on the scene, tweeting some particularly gruesome pictures.

The passport-line business doesn’t always go according to plan, though. “Once one of my clients didn’t show up on time because she slept in. I call her to wake her up and told her to get out of bed,” Mr. Dejchat, 42 years old, recalled. “She was panting heavily when she arrived and admitted that she hadn’t even taken a shower.” Still, Mr. Dejchat isn’t giving up his day job just yet. The government has introduced an online reservation system for passport applications that is designed to reduce the need for people to rely on fixers such as Mr. Dejchat.

“I know this can’t be forever. I just try my best for the time being to make money for my family, and create some jobs for my friends, too,” he said.

Report by blogs.wsj

Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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