Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has extended moral support to rock star Artiwara "Toon" Kongmalai, who on Wednesday began a 2,191-kilometre charity run.
"I'm giving encouragement and blessing for Toon to achieve his goal and to be safe while running throughout the long journey," government spokesperson Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd quoted the premier as saying. Prayut urged Toon to take care of his own health and eat and rest sufficiently during the "Kao Kon La Kao" (Take One Step Each) run.
Sansern said the premier also instructed officials along the route to accommodate the runners as needed. Prayut thanked Toon and his fellow campaign organisers for their determination to assist the Public Health Ministry and state hospitals, saying citizens in need of care would be the ones who ultimately benefit.
"The prime minister praised all activities that benefit society and hopes young people will be inspired by this campaign to do something constructive and show their volunteer spirit," Sansern said.
On the first leg of the run in Yala, the participants led by Toon - singer for the popular band Bodyslam - covered 55.55 kilometres and collected more than Bt47 million (S$1.9 million) in donations.
By December 25, they expect to have crossed the entire country, from southernmost point Betong district in Yala to northernmost Mae Sai district in in Chiang Rai. They aim to raise more than Bt700 million for 11 hospitals in need of better medical equipment.ai district.
However, the campaign has been criticised for only being a short-term solution that will not tackle the fundamental financial problems facing hospitals.
Prior to beginning the run, Artiwara said he respected everyone's opinions regarding the campaign and related issues, while asking people who agreed with him to help with the cause.
He added that he had practiced running "the hardest in life" to prepare and wanted to see people coming together to help as happened during his previous 400-kilometre run over 10 days, which raised more than Bt70 million for Prachuap Khiri Khan's Bang Saphan Hospital last year.