Two taxi cooperative workers assembled the mini gardens using black plastic bags that were stretched across bamboo frames. They added soil to the top. This allowed for the planting of a variety crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans.
It looks more like an art installation than a parking lot. This is partly because it draws attention to the dire situation of taxi drivers and operators, who have been severely affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
According to Thapakorn Assawalertkul, 54, the Ratchapruk Taxi and Bovorn taxi cooperatives have 500 cars left on Bangkok's streets. There are 2,500 vehicles still sitting in various city locations.
The capital's streets were dead quiet up until recently. There has been too much competition for fare fares, which has led to a drop in driver incomes. Thapakorn stated that many people can't afford to pay the daily vehicle payments, even though the cost was reduced by half to 300 baht ($9.09). They walked away and left the cars in silent rows.
He said that some drivers gave up their cars and went back to their rural homes when the pandemic struck last year. This was because they were scared. During the second wave, more people gave up and returned to their homes.
He said that the virus had caused new waves of activity in the cooperatives this year. This resulted in thousands of cars being abandoned by their drivers.
After a peak of 23,000.00 in mid-August, Thailand's new infections are now just below 15,000. This wave, which accounts for 97% of Thailand’s cases and more than 99 percent of deaths, is expected to recede, the government says. Thailand has so far confirmed over 1.4 million cases, and more than 14,000 deaths.
Taxi companies are now in dire financial straits, unable to repay their loans for the purchase of taxi fleets. Thapakorn stated that Ratchapruk's and Bovorn's cooperatives owe approximately 2 billion baht ($60.8million). So far, the government has not provided any financial assistance.
He told The Associated Press that if they don't get help soon, we'll be in serious trouble."
Taxi-top gardens aren't an alternative income stream. Cooperatives employees were forced to accept salary cuts and are now taking turns tending to the newly-created gardens.
Thapakorn stated that the vegetable garden was both a protest and a way to provide food for my staff during these difficult times. "Thailand was in political turmoil for many decades, with a devastating flood in 2011, but business wasn't as bad."