BANGKOK — Government sources on Tuesday said the coronavirus emergency law may be extended for the fourth time amid growing concerns that the decree is being used to silence political opponents.
Sources within the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration said the committee will propose the extension of the Emergency Decree to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday. The decree, which has been extended thrice since it became effective on March 26, is set to expire on July 31.
Officials had insisted that the special law is necessary to maintain the integrity of the works of different government agencies and repeatedly denied having a political agenda.
Deputy army chief Nattapol Nakpanich said in an interview with Inside Thailand news show that the extension is unrelated to politics. He also said the decree gave the government power to screen more than 60,000 travelers from overseas.
“The extension of the Emergency Decree will not be applied to political dimensions,” Gen. Nattapol said. “If we use it for other purposes, it will be attacked by certain groups. The prevention of COVID-19 remains the highest priority for using the decree.”
But opposition MP Rangsiman Rome said the extension is motivated by political gains since there is no domestic infection reported in the country for more than 50 days.
“There is no reason for the government to keep it apart from using it against the government’s critics,” Rangsiman posted on his Monday Facebook post.
The lawmaker also pointed to the case of two activists who were charged with violating the Emergency Decree last week as proof that the government is abusing the law.
The pair was detained after they attempted to raise banners condemning PM Prayut Chan-ocha during his visit to Rayong province.