Voices from the frontline: Natawan Pintho

UN Women is bringing the voices of women on the front lines of the pandemic. As essential workers, care givers and journalists, here are some s(h)eroes who are out there, every day, protecting and serving their communities.

Natawan Pintho, Police Captain, Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

Natawan Pintho, 29, is an immigration officer at the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Everything has changed for Natawan—from her daily routines at work or at home, to the risk she experiences every day. “The airport welcomes fewer passengers each day. We have learned how to sanitize our working space, our hands, we have to be more careful with people by wearing masks and keeping social distance.”

Before COVID-19 outbreak, Natawan would handle at least a thousand passengers every day. Now it’s a maximum of 100, which reduces her exposure to people, but performing some of the simple tasks are still risky, like checking the pages of a passport. “I need to make sure that the passport is genuine and in order to do so, I need to touch the paper with my fingers,” she says.

Having to deny passengers entry into Thailand according to the new rules has been a challenging ordeal for Natawan. “I had the case of a family of four from France. They were of Chinese descent. Three of them held French passports, but the woman had a Chinese passport. She couldn’t get into the country. We, therefore, helped her to figure out the situation by getting her a new airline ticket to another country”

“‘Am I already infected?’ is the question that I keep asking myself every day. I am allergic to dust, so I sneeze. Before, no one would pay any attention. Nowadays, I keep scaring everyone!”

Natawan’s family lives in Ubon Ratchathani, 600 Kilometres from Bangkok. But she can’t visit her family now. “If I return to my hometown, I will have to self-quarantine for 14 days,” she says.

Natawan misses the simple luxuries of visiting a hairdresser and getting a manicure, but there are also more serious concerns weighing on her mind: “We need to live on a budget because the overtime pay has decreased; so, that means less money in hand.” In March, Natawan’s monthly pay was 30 per cent less than what she would usually make.