I am quite afraid of the spread, but I have no other choice: no work, no pay


Malinee Kongpan, cleaner at the BTS Station. Photo: UN Women/Ploy Phutpheng

“While everyone is trying to avoid touching surfaces, there is a group of workers who are contending with COVID-19 on the surfaces they are cleaning. Malinee Kongpan, one of the cleaners for the Bangkok Transit System, is working harder to keep all the surfaces at BTS stations hygienic.”

- Could you please introduce yourself?

I am Malinee Kongpan, 47 years old. I was born in Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. Currently I’ve been a cleaner at a BTS station for more than a year.

- How is COVID-19 impacting your life?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s had some effects on my job and how we live together. For my job, I have to clean more often, especially on the frequently touched spots like handrails. As far as the way people live together, we have to follow the guidelines and keep our distance from one another, not  only for ourselves but also for others. On top of that, my work schedule has been changed due to the curfew. I normally work from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., but now I finish at 1 a.m. So I do not get any overtime pay, but for me, it’s understandable.

- Since you are on the frontline, how does your day look like?

Each day, I need to protect myself by having hand sanitizer and wearing a mask. Every morning we need to do a body temperature check. Before, we used to go wherever we wanted, but now we need to stay in place. We never know who’s infected, so we need to be more careful. 

- Does your company provide help or supplies to protect you?

My company provides gloves, glasses and masks. Nowadays it’s hard to find surgical masks. Even though the company provides some, we need to bring our own masks as well.

- Are you scared of being infected?

I am quite afraid of the spread, but I have no other choice: no work, no pay. I have to pay for a room and food. Everybody’s afraid of one another. When we see someone cough, we get paranoid. It’s scary, especially when we need to touch handrails or other frequently touched areas. However, I protect myself, wearing gloves and glasses every time I work.

- Why do you think the COVID-19 is impacting women differently?

We are facing the same virus, so we’re all affected by its rapid spread. There is no difference in gender now. Female or male, we all need to get through this pandemic.

- Is anything you would like to add?

It’s become a global issue now. I want it to go away soon so everybody can live a normal life again. Now we need to be very patient, and we will get through this together.