FRIDAY, March 01, 2024

Sukhothai man’s 800km wheelchair trek for disability pay sparks govt action

Sukhothai man’s 800km wheelchair trek for disability pay sparks govt action

TV footage capturing a wheelchair-bound man’s arduous journey from Sukhothai to Bangkok prompted swift action from Social Development and Human Security Minister Varawut Silpa-archa on Monday.

Varawut ordered the ministry’s Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities to investigate and urgently help the man.

On Sunday, TV stations broadcast depressing scenes of Monthon Phetsung, 48, pushing a lever on his modified wheelchair to move it little by little from Sukhothai to Bangkok – a distance of 824 kilometres.

Monthon, from Tambon Mae Sam in Sukhothai’s Si Satchanalai district, told police and reporters he aimed to prove his eligibility for the monthly disability allowance of 800 baht at the Comptroller General’s Department in Bangkok.

The incident began at 8pm on Saturday, when Chaiyo police station in Angthong received reports that a disabled man was propelling his wheelchair along the Asia Highway heading towards Bangkok.

Pol Lt Boonruang Srikrachang arrived at the scene and questioned the man.

Monthon revealed that he was pushing himself to Bangkok to confirm his allowance rights.

He recounted that he had fallen from a building while working on a construction site in Bangkok in 2014 and returned to Sukhothai to work as a handyman. However, after his income dropped recently, he checked the account that his handicapped allowance is paid into and found it hadn’t been credited since 2020.

He then inquired with district officials, who told him his allowance had been revoked and he needed to travel to Bangkok to reregister. He asked officials if they could help him travel to the capital, and when they said no, he decided to make the journey by wheelchair.

He told police it took him three weeks to reach Angthong, which is about halfway from Sukhothai to Bangkok.

Police gave Monthon a bed at the station on Saturday night before he continued his journey on Sunday morning.

On Monday morning, Monthon reached Ayutthaya, where the Social Development and Human Security Office gave him a place to rest and began investigating his case.

The minister said the investigation showed Monthon’s allowance had been revoked after he left Sukhothai for two years.

He said his ministry would ask the Comptroller General’s Department to resume Monthon’s monthly payments.

He also thanked the media for spotlighting the case and alerting him to Monthon’s plight.

He added that, rather than travelling to the capital, disabled people could always call the 1300 hotline to seek help.

Thiwaporn Phasuk, deputy director-general of the disabilities department, said she had seen the reports and would cooperate with other government agencies to help Monthon.