Photo Exhibition “Who Cares? COVID-19 Divides in Southeast Asia”

The photo exhibition “Who Cares? COVID-19 Divides in Southeast Asia” organized by SEA Junction and displayed at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC) from today to 29 October—documents how the pandemic in Southeast Asia laid bare the entrenched wealth and welfare inequities in society and their diverse implications for the well-being and safety of the various segments of the population as well as the differentiated social protection responses to the crisis.

In mainland Southeast Asia, the human toll was initially limited compared to peninsular Southeast Asia and to global figures. Nevertheless, throughout the region, the socioeconomic damage of COVID-19 and the drastic measures taken to impede its spread have been huge and inequitably distributed.

Taken aback by the scale of the crisis, societies were challenged to protect the most vulnerable in their midst due to inadequate or non-existent allowances for informal workers (a majority of whom are women), migrants and those considered outside of the labour market, including people with disability and the elderly.

As government support was far from sufficient or fair, individuals, communities and non-profit organizations had to get involved in distributing food and aid as well as helping with treatment, care and funeral services. Looking ahead, structural reforms are needed if the profound divides laid bare by the pandemic are to be addressed seriously.

Photographers from six countries, Edy Susanto for Indonesia, Hasnoor Hussain for Malaysia, Tanwe (pseudonym) for Myanmar, Kimberly dela Cruz for the Philippines, Grace Baey for Singapore, and Sayan Chuenudomsavad for Thailand highlight how pre-existing inequities have resulted in a disproportionately large toll being taken on disadvantaged groups and in greater constraints and reduced protections for these same groups.

During the exhibition, two related events are planned at SEA Junction as follows:

18 October, 5.30-7 pm: Photographer Talk on which the photographers will discuss their work during the pandemic.

25 October 5.30-7 pm: Book Launch of the Thai language version of the recently published book “Who Cares? COVID-19 Social Protection Response in Southeast Asia” edited by SEA Junction’s founder Rosalia Sciortino, published by Silkworm Books and illustrated with selected exhibition photos.

The launch will present a panel focused on the book’s chapter on Thailand and discuss lessons that can be drawn from the COVID-19 social protection response that are of relevance to current policy discussions on elderly welfare and e-wallets aid for the overall population.

The exhibition as well as the books production (both in English and Thai) and the respective launches are part of a regional research project conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021-2022, which was conducted by the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) of Mahidol University with funding from the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) under the Integrated Strategic Research Program on Social Sciences: Khon Thai 4.0.

For more details, check out @Exhibition Opening & Photographers’ Talk “Who Cares? COVID-19 Divides in Southeast Asia”