Panthera Group, Thailand’s largest operator of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, came to the rescue of Bangkok’s forgotten taxi drivers, donating hundreds of food bags to an overlooked, but essential part, of Thailand’s nightlife sector.
Organized by the staff of Sugar Club, one of three major Panthera nightclubs on Sukhumvit Soi 11, the May 21 handout brought much-needed relief to metered-cab, motorcycle-taxi and tuk-tuk drivers on sois 11 and 23, near the world-famous Soi Cowboy.
The 500 relief bags included more than 3,500 kilograms of rice, 20,000 eggs, 3,000 tins of canned food, 10,000 packets of instant noodles, 1,000 bottles of cooking oil, plus baby powder, diapers and other necessities.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with Bangkok taxi drivers. They are key people in the nightlife industry and we all know them,” said Panthera Group co-founder Paul Hayward. “We’ve built a strong relationship and they were our biggest source of customers for Insanity nightclub (on Sukhumvit Soi 11), as they handed out brochures and brought us customers for a commission.”
But, Hayward explained, taxi drivers have been left behind during the coronavirus pandemic. As independent workers, they are not covered by the government’s Social Security system, cannot collect unemployment benefit and have suffered massive losses of income.”
“These days I see long rows of taxis lined up with no customers,” Hayward said. “Taxi drivers are forgotten souls these days.”
Panthera Group posted on its LINE messaging app group about its intention to hand out 300 relief bags on Soi 11 and 100 on Soi 23 two days before overloaded pickup trucks hit the streets. Word spread like wildfire among Bangkok’s cabbies, who, in addition to suffering a huge financial blow, have taken the brunt of coronavirus infections, as their constant exposure to the public puts them in a high-risk group.
In May 2021, at least a dozen taxi drivers died from Covid-19.
Much like a VIP motorcade, the Panthera Group truck rolled on from Sukhumvit Soi 11 after midnight to Sukhumvit Soi 23 with a parade of motorcycle taxis in tow. Near the entrance to Soi Cowboy, the rest of the food was distributed.
“Someone has to help these guys. They can’t be left behind,” Hayward said. “Hopefully we showed them they’re not on their own.”