BANGKOK — Senior government officials on Thursday remained divided on whether to extend the Emergency Decree, which is set to expire by the end of this month.
Supreme commander Pornpipat Benyasri said the works of security authorities will not be affected if the country is no longer under the State of Emergency. The Emergency Decree, which has been extended twice since it became effective on March 26, is supposed to last until June 30.
“We can now contain the spread of infections,” Gen. Pornpipat said. “The Prime Minister has insisted that the country must be able to move forward and people can make their living. The economy must grow. I suggest any measure that can be relaxed should proceed to get the economy going.”
Asked whether the authorities are concerned about a possible surge of political gatherings, the general said there are already laws in place for such circumstances.
“We already have the Public Assembly Act and relevant laws in place. If the assembly does not go against the law, it can be done,” Pornpipat said.
The supreme commander also praised the works of security officials who performed their duties discreetly and politely over the past 80 days, which he said he has not received any complaints from citizens so far.
However, health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said there is no plan to revoke the Emergency Decree. He said the special law is still necessary to maintain integrity of the works of different government agencies.
“The decree is still effective, but we will only keep it for integrating the works of different agencies or in case of emergency,” Anutin said. “I think it does not bother the lives of people anymore since there is no longer a curfew. Establishments can now reopen and alcohol can be sold, but people who work the hardest remain medical professionals.”
He also said health officials are studying plans to open up the country to certain groups of foreign travellers under the so-called travel bubble agreements. The plan will be submitted to the government’s COVID-19 response center for approval on June 26, Anutin added.
A group of pro-democracy campaigners led by Thammasat student activist Parit Chiwarak also staged a protest in front of the Government House this morning, calling for the government to drop the decree.
At the parliament, 55 MPs of the Move Forward Party proposed a draft bill to change the status of the emergency law, from a Decree into an Act. The lawmakers said such changes would allow more legislative oversight of the special law.
Under the proposal, the enactment and extension of emergency powers must be approved by the parliament within seven days after the announcement. The new law will also cross out the controversial restrictions on the press and amnesty for security officials, while any arrests made must proceed under the criminal code.
The government is set to deliberate on whether to extend the decree during a Cabinet meeting next week.