K-pop fans in Thailand spend money to hang banners on tuk tuks, helping drivers earn extra income.
On June 28, Reuters reviewed a number of K-pop fans’ activities to help tuk tuk drivers in the past few months. They print job boards in plastic or cardboard, place them in garages or streets to find drivers to cooperate. Thereby, they will buy ads for idols on tuk tuk. Samran Thammasa, a 39-year-old driver, said he and other drivers will drive around the city, stopping at several locations so fans can take pictures with the idol’s banner. In addition to the fixed 600 baht ($19) a month, he sometimes gets tips.
Pichaya Prachathomrong, 27, raised 18,000 baht ($565) from fans of Super Junior to promote member Yesung’s new album. He recruited 13 tuk tuks through an app-based ride-hailing service.
Thitipong Lohawech, a 21-year-old university student, created the “Tuk Up” service, which was originally intended to help dozens of drivers rent his family’s Tuk Tuk. Currently, the service supports about 300 drivers from all over Bangkok to find advertising partners. “Fans are distributing income to each person, which helps promote social change and support the economy,” Thitipong said.
Reuters said that tuk tuk drivers, especially in the capital Bangkok, are one of the groups most affected by the epidemic. Samran Thammasa used to earn about 1,500 baht ($47) a day transporting foreign passengers. However, for the past year, he has not earned any money. In 2020, the number of visitors to Thailand decreased by 85%. The country plans to block the border in the near future to prevent the epidemic.
Tuk tuk drivers said many of them had no chance of accessing the government-approved 967 billion baht ($30 billion) bailout, because it was distributed via a mobile wallet app. “By the time the money got to us, we were almost dead,” said Pairot Suktham, a 54-year-old driver who doesn’t have a smartphone. He added, “K-pop fans support our lives and give us hope to keep fighting.” In Thailand, there are about 9,000 registered tuk tuks.
In addition to supporting tuk tuk drivers, K-pop fans choose this private vehicle because of political dissatisfaction. Since last year, Thai students have organized many protests against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army commander who came to power after the 2014 coup. Many K-pop fans were in protest groups. They stopped buying ads on government subways and sky trains after these types of vehicles stopped working to prevent protests.