Thai actor Phakin Khamwilaisak, better known as “Tono”, has raised over 60 million baht with his charity swim across the Mekong River off Nakhon Phanom yesterday to raise funds for hospitals in the northeastern province and neighbouring Laos.
Phakin, swimming under the theme “One Man And The River”, covered a total distance of 15 kms along the Mekong River that took him to Khammouane province on the Laotian side where he was given a rousing welcome.
The whole venture took about seven hours. After arriving at That Sikhottabong Temple in Khammouane, Phakin and his team took a ride to Khammouane Hospital to meet its medical staff. Parts of the funds being raised will be donated to the Laotian hospital.
Phakin said his charity swim was intended to raise money to buy medical equipment for the main hospitals in Nakhon Phanom and Khammouane.
Prior to the swim which began exactly at 10.09 am, a religious ceremony was held at the starting point on the bank of the river in Nakhon Phanom to pay respects to the Naga deity, followed by a traditional dance performance by about 300 performers dressed in traditional Thai costumes. Thousands of people turned up to witness the launch of the charity swim.
Phakin completed his swim after arriving back at the starting point in Nakhon Phnom at about 5 pm. For his safety, during the swim Phakin was attached to a floatation device and accompanied by four kayaks, four jet skis and four swimmers.
Thousands of people cheered as the visibly exhausted Phakin arrived ashore. “This is not my success. But it’s a success made possible by all of us, both Thai and Lao people,” he said.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was also on hand to congratulate Phakin for his successful venture. “We are all overjoyed to see our hero who has the country so much good,” he said.
As of Sunday morning, about 62 million baht has already been raised.
Phakin’s venture has sparked a hot debate on the social media with his fans expressing fears for his safety and critics blasting him for posing a burden on local authorities and health officials who would be mobilized to help him with the swim.