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On rich Phuket, hundreds queue from early morning for a free bag of rice

Phuket Charity Helps 6000 Needy: Photo Special

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
THOUSANDS of people flocked to a charitable foundation in Phuket City this week for a bag of rice and other useful gifts.

The gathering was a sign that, while Phuket may be prosperous in many ways, it is also home to many people who are a long way from being rich.

As a suburb of Phuket City, Poonpon, once renown for massage parlors and brothels, is being gentrified. Even the roads are now getting tarted up.

Within a short walk, you can find a mosque, a church, and sikh and hindu temples.

Poonpon also remains the headquarters for the Kusoldharm Phuket Foudation, a public benefit organisation whose volunteers help people in need in many ways.

Phuketwan saw Kusoldharm volunteers assisting earlier this year when the Moken village at Thachatchai lost 17 homes to a fire.

And when swimmers were needed help collect five drowned victims from a diving disaster off Patong, the Kusoldharm volunteers were the first to jump into the water.

A stack of coffins for the poor sit in one corner of the open courtyard at the foundation's building.

Last year, foundation president Chaloemkiat Ongjaroen said, there were 5000 bags of rice given away. The year before that, there were 3000.

This year, because times are extra tough, the courtyard was laden with 6000 bags of rice.

People queued outside from early in the morning. When the gates eventually opened, hundreds of people were massed there.

Navy guards were on duty to keep the lines orderly. The limit was one bag per person, and the bags went in just a few hours.

Mothers carried babes in arms to gain a second bag. Old ladies on sticks shuffled across the yard for an additional portion.

Ourtside, families pooled their bags and piled them into motorcycle sidecars.

With the bags came gifts of noodles and canned food, as well as fruit.

The faces, filing out, told the story. Phuket is not as prosperous as it often seems.

Another handout of rice is planned for November.

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