Critics Suspect Power Grab in Virus Decree Extension

Activists protest the extension of the Emergency Decree on June 29, 2020.

BANGKOK — The government on Tuesday extended the Emergency Decree to another month through July with a stated aim of combating the coronavirus, though critics of the authorities call it a coup in disguise. 

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting concluded, government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said the decree is needed in order to control the Kingdom’s borders as coronavirus infections in many countries are still on the rise. It was the third extension for the emergency rule since it was imposed back in March.

She also said more time with special power is needed to integrate anti-coronavirus measures, and promised the decree won’t affect people’s daily lives or the economy.

Activists opposed to the government remain unconvinced by the reassurance.


“I don’t think it has anything to do with coronavirus since late April,” activist Nutta “Bow” Mahattana said on the phone. “It has been contained since then. Now it’s for another objective. It’s kind of a coup in disguise.”

Thailand has not detected any new infections outside quarantine areas for those who returned from abroad for over a month.

A senior researcher for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the continued imposition of the emergency decree will inevitably affect rights and liberty of citizens.

“This is detrimental to the governance under democratic principles,” Sunai Phasuk said. “The intention for maintaining the emergency decree is about protecting Prayut and the government from political challenge.”


A few student activists also staged a protest against the extension of the emergency decree earlier today. 

Although government officials insist the State of Emergency is required to deal with a possible “second wave” of coronavirus outbreak, military expert and political scientist Surachart Bamrungsuk said he believed Thai society is adequately prepared for such a scenario without the decree. 

“Many see the government as wanting to have special power to deal with many problems, particularly the economic problem which may lead to protests,” Surachart said.  “Maintaining the emergency rule is thus more about political control than controlling the coronavirus itself.”