Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announces the declaration of a state of emergency on March 24, 2020.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announces the declaration of a state of emergency on March 24, 2020.

BANGKOK — Opposition politicians on Wednesday urged PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to clarify on what powers and special measures will be implemented in his emergency decree on the coronavirus pandemic.

Pheu Thai Party spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said the Prime Minister’s failure to mention any specifics when he announced the emergency situation yesterday is causing confusion among the public. A news conference by Gen. Prayut, scheduled for 2pm today, was also abruptly postponed without any explanation.

“His speech seemed to be contradicting itself. He said he will enact an emergency decree, but he also said that he will ask for cooperation from citizens,” Anusorn said. “The point of enacting the decree is to contain the outbreak. It should not be used against the freedom of the press or people.”

Prayut invoked the 2005 Royal Decree of Emergency Situations yesterday, which he said is necessary to stem the coronavirus epidemic.

However, apart from saying that the decree will come into effect on Thursday, he did not reveal any details of the measures he intended to take. The emergency grants him broad powers to impose curfews, travel restrictions, detain citizens, and censor media and communications.

“People also lost their patience listening to him,” Anusorn said. “His mask slipped off, his glasses also fell off, and when he finished his address, he rushed off the podium without answering questions.”

Deputy head of Pheu Thai Party Chonlanan Srikaew slammed Prayut for moving too late to take harsher actions amid the soaring number of confirmed infections in Thailand, which nearly reached the 1,000-case milestone this week.

“The decision to enact an emergency decree came out very late,” Chonlanan said. “The previous measures shutting down restaurants could end up in widespread infections across the country, since the workers had no choice but to return home. If they want to enact it, they need to find relief measures for the people as well.”

He also accused the government for neglecting solutions proposed by the opposition.

“The Pheu Thai Party proposed many solutions for the government, but they don’t listen to us. They saw it as a political stunt,” Chonlanan said. “Don’t take it as a show-off by the opposition, that’s evil and selfish politics.”

Chaturon Chaisang, a leader of the now-defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party, called Prayut’s silence on the emergency powers “a non-emergency emergency decree.”

“The Cabinet’s enactment of an emergency decree without specifying any measures is letting people down,” Chaturon wrote on his Facebook. “The government’s actions against the Covid-19 is scattering, splitting, and off the pace of the situation. What’s the government waiting for? The virus isn’t waiting for anyone.”

He also questioned the necessity of declaring a state of emergency and setting up a new government crisis center, which he said are not relevant to the epidemic.

“The structure of the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation is full of military top brass. We can’t put our hopes on these people to solve the epidemic,” he continued. “The decree also empowers the prime minister more than necessary. It could be exploited into curbing citizens’ freedom.”