BANGKOK — A transparency activist on Tuesday accused the government of negligence for allowing the U.S. army chief to visit the country without having to go through a quarantine as mandated by health regulations.
Campaigner Srisuwan Janya said he feared that the visit of a delegation from the country with the most COVID-19 cases would transmit the virus to Thai population. The delegation led by the U.S. army chief of staff James McConville will visit Thailand from July 9 to 10, and the Thai government said they will be required to follow strict measures.
“The U.S. army chief and his delegation will come from the country with the world’s highest confirmed cases,” Srisuwan said. “We can’t be certain whether they will be free of the virus. The government has taken the promised measures for granted to exclusively subserve the delegation’s benefit.”
Thailand has begun partial border reopening since July 1, in which certain groups of foreigners are permitted to fly into the country with a condition of having to undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated facilities. However, exceptions were made for official guests and business people travelling on a special agreement with the government.
Srisuwan said he will file a complaint against the government’s ’s coronavirus response center at the anti-corruption commission this Thursday.
He also criticized health minister Anutin Charnvirakul for failing to wear a mask and observe social distancing measures during the Fourth of July party held by the U.S. embassy in Bangkok last Saturday.
“The government has repeatedly preached the people to not let their guard down, but it turns out that people within the government have the privilege to be spared from those measures,” Srisuwan said.
American diplomats do not wear masks in photos posted online by Anutin either. The health minister appears to have deleted the photos.
Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman of the government’s COVID-19 taskforce, said the Thai government could not impose a mandatory quarantine for the delegation because it is only a short-visit.
The U.S. officials will still be required to take virus tests before and after their arrival to Thailand, and masks must be worn at all times, Taweesin said. Health and security officials will follow them throughout the trip and they will be not allowed to stray out of the itinerary during his two-day visit, he said.
The American delegation will be the first group of foreigners to officially visit Thailand on a special agreement during the pandemic. The group is scheduled to meet PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the army chief Apirat Kongsompong on Thursday.