Emergence Decree to Be Extended, But Protests Won’t Be Banned

A protester on July 18, 2020, holds a sign urging the government not to use the coronavirus as an excuse to maintain the Emergency Decree.

BANGKOK  — The government said political gatherings won’t be banned under the Emergency Decree, which was extended yet again on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha approved the proposal earlier today, extending the decree to the end of August. Government officials insist the emergency measures are for guarding against the resurgence of the coronavirus and unrelated to the ongoing protests.

“The only tool that guarantees economic measures to be balanced against public health concerns is the Emergency Decree,” Gen. Somsak Rungsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council, said Wednesday. “Therefore, we must extend it for another month.” 

The extension will be formally endorsed by the Cabinet in their next meeting. Gen. Somsak said the decree will no longer ban gatherings.

“This shows that the emergency decree has the sole and pure intention of controlling the disease,” Somsak said. 

He added that demonstrators must still abide by other laws related to public assemblies.

A large anti-government protest on Saturday drew an estimate of as many as 2,500. Student activists announced that more rallies will take place from this week through August. 

Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s pandemic center, said the decree extension is necessary to control travel in and out of the country, track down people for quarantine, implement “surveillance of suspicious persons,” and prevent the coronavirus outbreak. 

“The emergency decree is an important tool in our preparation to transition into the New Normal until there can be more laws to support it,” he said.

Taweesin also said that “Phase 6” of coronavirus measures will allow some foreigners to enter the country as long as they quarantine for 14 days. 

Eligible under this measure are businessmen and experts from Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong; workers with work permits from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia; and foreign film crews who pass medical examinations, and they must also allow a government health official to be on the set with them. 

The spokesman added that  7,207 people in Rayong tested negative for the coronavirus; the province-wide test efforts were conducted after an infected Egyptian airman was allowed to leave his quarantine there and visit public places in early July.