Toon Bodyslam calls on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House on Monday. The rocker will resume his run early on Wednesday morning. (Government House photo)
Charity runner Artiwara “Toon” Kongmalai on Monday met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who worried about Toon’s health and hoped he could complete his 2,191-kilometre hospital fund-raiser.
The Bodyslam band frontman spent the morning of his rest day at Government House, where lines of supporters waited to greet him and give donations to his charity fund, which topped 513 million baht around 2pm Monday.
He had planned to continue his marathon on Tuesday, but the team doctors instructed him to rest for one more day.
Toon is now due to resume his run at 3am on Wednesday, starting from the King Power head office on Rangnam Road in Ratchathewi district in Bangkok, heading to Siriraj Hospital and Suphan Buri.
Toon has already completed 1,300.50km, 59.3% of the total distance planned through 20 provinces from Betong district in Yala to Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai. The plan is to reach the finish line on Dec 25.
After meeting the premier, Toon told reports that Gen Prayut asked about this health and wished him success in his bid to raise money for needed equipment at 11 state-run regional hospitals. The prime minister also donated an undisclosed sum to the fund.
Gen Prayut said he had followed Toon’s charity run from the beginning, and his previous charity run. The rocker raised 85 million baht for Bang Saphan Hospital in December 2016 by running 400km from Bangkok to the hospital.
The prime minister thanked Toon and his team for coordinating with the Public Health Ministry and the 11 hospitals. He praised Toon as a determined new-generation citizen who is doing good deeds for the country, Thai people and public health.
Gen Prayut admitted the country still has problems with the universal health insurance scheme. However, the government budget needed to be allocated properly, or it could adversely impact the country’s development.
Toon’s charity run would help reduce problems at the 11 hospitals. The government had approved funding for provincial hospitals but a large portion of the money had been spent on infrastructure development. Therefore, hospitals still lack the money to buy needed, expensive medical equipment.
Toon said he had not expected such a large number of people to step up and support his run, which was aimed at helping doctors and nurses. He is now two days behind schedule, but must take another day of rest on doctors’ instructions.
“I am glad that this run started from Betong as I see only smiles and the happiness of Thai people. Children have donated savings from their piggy banks, it is beautiful and great.
“Thank you for seeing me as an inspiration. What I get from this project is much more than just the assistance to the hospitals when I see Thai people pool their hearts in giving,” the rocker said after meeting the prime minister.
The team has a target of 700 million baht in donations. It is already has about 73% of the target.
“I want small donations from a large number of people, instead of large amounts from a handful of donors,” Toon said.
With an extra rest day on Tuesday, Toon will be three days behind the original plan to arrive in Mae Sai on Christmas Day. But on Sunday night he expressed his determination to catch up on the lost time.
“Those worried about me have suggested I should delay the plan to reach Mae Sai for weeks, or even months,” he said when asked about his schedule. “I don’t want to be frivolous. I still stay focused on the plan and hope to make up the lost time.”
Government House video