BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Thai rock star has become a national hero after completing a gruelling two-month run and raising over 1.1 billion baht (S$45.1 million) for the country's public hospitals.
Artiwara Kongmalai, better known as Toon Bodyslam, completed his 2,214km run from Thailand's southernmost corner to its northernmost tip on Monday (Dec 25).
The lead singer of rock band Bodyslam began his charity run for 11 hospitals in Yala's Betong district on November 1, inspiring many people in Thailand to think about what they could do to help the less fortunate.
Throughout the past two months, Mr Artiwara has received glowing media coverage every single day, in addition to admiration from Thais the country over.
A poll of 1,154 people conducted by Bangkok University revealed on Saturday he was the most admired person of the year with 83.5 per cent of the votes, beating Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha who came second with 11.1 per cent.
Deafening cheers from thousands of people greeted Mr Artiwara as he reached the finishing line at the Mae Sai border point in Chiang Rai province, Thailand's northernmost spot.
The donations raised by Mr Artiwara's charity run are about 0.33 per cent of the total all state hospitals receive from the government every year via the Public Health Ministry and National Health Security Office.
The 11 hospitals that will receive a share of the funds raised by Mr Artiwara's run are: Saraburi Hospital, Surat Thani Hospital, Khon Kaen Hospital, Chaophraya Yommaraj Hospital, Nakornping Hospital, Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital, Chaopraya Abhaiphubejhr Hospital, Ratchaburi Hospital, Nan Hospital, Phramongkutklao Hospital and Yala Hospital.
Although most of these hospitals are relatively big and have a wide range of facilities, many have operated in the red due to the high number of patients they care for.