Update: The National Security Council on June 25, 2020, proposes extending the Emergency Decree for another month, citing the threats of coronavirus.
BANGKOK — Top government officials on Wednesday refused to rule out the possibility of extending the Emergency Decree again for the third time amid growing voices of concern from the opposition and private sector.
Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said the Cabinet did not discuss the fate of the emergency rule in its meeting yesterday. He deferred reporter’s questions to the National Security Council and said that the final decision on its fate is to be made by the government’s COVID-19 response center next Monday.
“I don’t know whether the decree will be extended,” Wissanu said. “The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration will hold a meeting on June 29, before submitting the proposals for the Cabinet to approve on June 30.”
The government had previously said that the Cabinet will deliberate on whether to extend the decree this week. The Emergency Decree empowers the PM to implement his order in any state agency and allows security officers to search individuals without warrants. It also bans any unauthorized public gatherings, including political protests.
The law has been extended twice since it was imposed on March 26, and is supposed to expire next Tuesday.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha suggested yesterday that the decree is needed to keep Thailand safe from the pandemic.
“Imagine if there’s no Emergency Decree, would we be able to reach this point?” Prayut said Tuesday. “Is the pandemic over? There’s nearly 10,000,000 people infected around the world so far. I’m not intending to use the law against anyone. The country is facing a crisis and the economy is still in trouble, is this the time to stir up a conflict?”
Deputy PM Wissanu also said the special law is necessary to maintain state quarantine measures, but opposition lawmakers accused the government of exploiting the special power under the disguise of fighting the coronavirus.
“It’s already been 29 days since Thailand reported no domestic infections,” Move Forward Party leader Pita Limcharoenrut said. “The decree allows authorities to infringe civil rights without any accountability. The government isn’t handling the situation as it is and doesn’t make judgement based on health interests as they claimed.”
He continued, “Wissanu should be straightforward and stop confusing people with legal terms, misleading them that the Emergency Decree is still necessary.”
Thailand reported one new coronavirus patient on Wednesday, who is a Thai returnee from the Philippines. No local transmission is reported.
Gen. Somsak Rungsita, sec-gen of the National Security Council, said the council will deliberate on the proposal to extend the decree on Thursday.
The proposal will then be forwarded to the government’s crisis center before being handed over to the Cabinet, he said.
As of today, 73 infected patients are being treated at hospitals, while 3,068 patients have recovered. The country has 3,157 cumulative infection cases so far, according to the government’s COVID-19 response center.