K-pop fans help tuk-tuk drivers during the pandemic.

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K-pop fans in Thailand spend money to hang banners on tuk-tuks, helping drivers earn extra income.

On June 28, Reuters reviewed several K-pop fans’ activities to help tuk-tuk drivers in the past few months. They print recruitment signs in plastic or cardboard, place them in garages or streets, to find drivers to cooperate, buy ads for idols on cars. Samran Thammasa, a 39-year-old driver, said he and other drivers would drive around the city, stopping for fans to 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 Super Junior fans 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, originally intended to help dozens of drivers rent his family’s car. 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 most affected by the epidemic. Samran Thammasa used to earn about 1,500 baht ($47) a day transporting foreign passengers. But for a year, he did not make any money. In 2020, the number of visitors to Thailand will decrease by 85%. The country plans to block the border shortly 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.” Thailand has about 9,000 registered tuk tuks.

In addition to supporting tuk-tuk drivers, K-pop fans choose this private vehicle to promote political dissatisfaction. Since last year, Thai students have organized protests against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army commander who came to power after the 2014 coup. Much K-fans pop is in protest groups. They stopped buying ads on subways and government overhead trains after they stopped working to prevent protests.

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