When Somsak* was sentenced to two years in prison for pickpocketing, he never thought he would get a second chance to make an honest living.
“I was at my lowest point. I didn’t think I would be able to survive after prison,” he said.
After serving his sentence for a year, a prison guard introduced him to an initiative run by the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Corrections that teaches inmates how to make handicrafts for sale. Named Wansook, which means “happy days” in Thai, the initiative aims to give convicts new opportunities through digital commerce and partnerships with eCommerce platforms like Lazada.
“Even though these inmates may have made mistakes, those who have continued to improve themselves throughout their imprisonment deserve a second chance. The Ministry of Justice believes it is important that inmates have the ability to support themselves financially post-incarceration, as this will allow them to re-integrate into society and lower the likelihood of any re-offense,” said Sitthi Suthiwong, the deputy director-general of the Department of Corrections’ development section.
The DOC had previously run a similar initiative offline, but sales were low due to limited access to consumers. Since the department launched its flagship Wansook store on Lazada at the end of last year, it has seen a major boost in sales, with products such as handbags, keychains and small pieces of wooden furniture – all crafted by those serving time – becoming especially popular with shoppers from all across the country. In just four months of the store’s opening on Lazada, sales surged by 3,000% to reach THB100,000 per month.
Part of the proceeds have gone towards funding occupational skills development for the inmates, and the rest has been kept as savings to help them rebuild their lives upon release.
This campaign has given inmates like Somsak a new lease on life. “I can now look forward to life again after imprisonment and do my best part to contribute in meaningful ways to the community and to help others like myself,” he said.
The Power of Second Chances
Highlighting how important a new, honest start can be to reformed criminals, the DOC and Lazada enlisted the help of Worayot Bunthongnum, better known as Power Pat, to drive up awareness for Wansook through a special sales campaign. The superstar singer was once sentenced to 50 years in prison and was released for exemplary behaviour after serving 16 years.
Between April 17 and 19, the singer encouraged shoppers to visit the Wansook store and then invited the top three spenders to join an exclusive mini concert hosted by Lazada. A replay of the mini concert was also livestreamed on LazLive. In just three days, the campaign helped drive more than THB100,000 in sales.
“I can only be where I am today because of the support of others, and especially of my fans,” Bunthongnum said. “For that, I am grateful and want to give back and encourage those who are in the shoes that I was, to not give up on themselves, and to give second chance a chance. This is why I’m delighted to be working with Lazada on this campaign, as I know that everyone deserves another shot and so many of these inmates are so talented and so willing to improve themselves. Seeing such great sales results is not just financially rewarding for them, but a validation of their work, talents and skills.”
Wansook is part of Lazada Thailand’s Stronger Together campaign, which was launched last year to help local communities overcome economic challenges. The initiative is also only the first step in helping inmates leverage eCommerce and technology to build better futures.
“As a platform that empowers sellers, we believe that the digital economy can open doors for everyone, no matter your background or past,” said Werapong Goo, Lazada Thailand’s executive vice president of eCommerce. “With our expertise and resources in eCommerce and technology, we hope to be able to further this partnership by helping to train and equip inmates with digital and business skills. We want to help inmates find online business opportunities after their release. This will not only benefit the inmate, his or her family and community, but the wider Thai economy.”
*Name changed to protect the individual’s identity.
Pimchaya Boonyarattaphan (Kwang) is a manager in Lazada Thailand’s public relations team and is responsible for corporate communications and media relations.
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