No One Charged So Far For Rayong Quarantine Fiasco

Rayong residents line up to take coronavirus tests on July 15, 2020.
Rayong residents line up to take coronavirus tests on July 15, 2020.

BANGKOK — No legal action has been taken against those responsible for a group of Egyptian airmen who were allowed to leave their quarantine hotel for a shopping trip in Rayong province, officials said Friday.

The incident raised fears that a new wave of infections may break out across the country, since one of the Egyptians later tested positive for the virus. Rayong provincial police chief Weera Chiraweera said police cannot take action because no one has come forward to file a complaint – a contrast to swift repercussions to civilians accused of putting others at risk.

“No complaints have been made at the moment,” Maj. Gen. Weera said.

Apart from apologies by the government and a buck-passing game to shift blame over the past week, no actual action was taken against any government or military officials responsible for the Egyptian airmen’s quarantine.

The crews were supposed to be under isolation while they stayed in Thailand for a refuelling stop between July 9 to 11.

Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, chief of the Disease Control Department, said health officials who were stationed at U-Tapao International Airport were transferred to another post as a result of their incompetence.

He declined to say whether anyone should be prosecuted for the lax enforcement of quarantine measures.

“The hotel has already been closed down following the incident,” Suwanchai said. “I think anything more than that would be unnecessary.”

D Varee Diva Central Rayong Hotel, where the Egyptians stayed, announced that it decided to voluntarily shut down until further notice for public safety. The shopping malls where the group visited, as well as at least 127 schools across the province, were likewise closed down as fears of the outbreak loomed large.

At least 1,500 people in Rayong were also tested for the coronavirus after the news broke. None tested positive so far.

Asked whether who is responsible for the blunder, Suwanchai said it was the Egyptian airmen who “didn’t follow instructions.”

“To be frank, it’s the Egyptian airmen,” he said. “They were told to stay inside their rooms when they arrived in Thailand. The hotel too should have stopped them from stepping outside.

On Wednesday, transparency activist Srisuwan Janya filed a negligence complaint to the national anti-graft commission against the government’s pandemic crisis center.

He said the government has not taken any concrete responsibility for the incident, which could set back efforts for economic recovery in the province.

By contrast, the government has dished out harsh punishment to members of the public who failed to comply with virus control measures.

An official report said up to 37,000 people were arrested for breaching the curfew imposed to deter coronavirus infection from April to June. At least 35,000 of those arrested were charged with criminal offenses.

In April, a woman was also charged with violating the Emergency Decree for organizing a charity event without observing social distancing measures. She was reportedly fined 2,500 baht before being released by the police.