A new normal in Thailand

by Weena Kowitwanij | Asia News

June 28 2020

For Dr Kumnuan Ungchusak, a Catholic, starting again will depend on a number of principles like safety, thrift, smallness, and minimalism. With the pandemic, spirituality and faith become central again. Christians are rediscovering God and solidarity with their fellows. The country and its people will “be able to overcome this crisis.”

BANGKOK – A new social and economic ‘normal’ is emerging as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which appears to be under control in Thailand.

For Dr Kumnuan Ungchusak, a Catholic, author of an article published by the monthly Udomsarn, which found wide echo in social media, it is important to start over with a number of guiding principles, namely safety, thrift, smallness, minimalism, and spirituality.

At the height of the pandemic, businesses, government offices, and schools were locked down, whilst religious services in Buddhist temples and Christian places of worship were suspended.

Currently, many people are out of work and without earnings to feed their family. This has led to escalating economic and social problems, which prompted the authorities to ease restrictions as quickly as possible.

With easing though, there is no going back to the pre-coronavirus normality; this might be possible only after the discovery of effective treatments or a vaccine against COVID-19.

For now, all the talk is about the “new normal” of physical distancing, masks, and personal hygiene with frequent hand washing.

Today people who go to a store or a shopping centre are tracked via their mobile phone, sharing data about where they are going and for how long. The goal is to track the movement or location history of individuals who have tested positive in order to contain potential outbreaks.

For Kumnuan Ungchusak, the new way of life comes with a number of principles, starting with keeping safe, the only tool to contain the spread of the virus. The next one is being thrifty with resources, i.e. avoiding unnecessary spending and protecting the environment. This includes more smart and remote work.

The third principle is “small but meaningful” such as sharing time with family and friends, avoiding large gatherings. The fourth point is minimalist economy, with focus on quality rather quantity, not exploitative of nature, with responsible rather than mass tourism.

There is also a different, but no less important aspect that embraces spirituality and eggs us on to change our lives and return to religious faith, as well as transform a society that has been based for far too long on consumerism.

For Buddhists this involves freeing oneself from desire, from passion, to put an end to suffering; for Christians, it implies uniting more and more with God and doing good towards our brothers and sisters in Christ; for Muslims the stress is on the bond with God rather than any kind of wealth.

Ultimately, this means protecting “ourselves and our families” from any challenge and threat, including the novel coronavirus, which has yet to be defeated. Thus, our nation, people, and society “will certainly be able to overcome this crisis”.