PM Says He Doesn’t Mean To Scare Protesters With Virus Threat

A screenshot of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s speech on Sept. 17, 2020.
A screenshot of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s speech on Sept. 17, 2020.

BANGKOK — PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday said he has no intention of using the coronavirus scare to discourage protesters from joining the upcoming anti-government rally.

Prayut said the televised speech he made yesterday was meant to warn citizens of the possibility of virus infection from large gatherings. In his speech, he said the protests risk starting a second wave of infection in the country and multiplying the economic woes caused by the pandemic.

“I said it yesterday because I was compassionate,” Prayut said. “I didn’t want to threaten anyone, it’s a true story. If anything happens, will you be able to handle it?”

Prayut’s speech, which aired nationwide Thursday evening, was made just two days before the demonstrators are set to gather at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus on Saturday.

Protest organizers said they demand the government to step down and confirmed that the monarchy will be discussed on stage.

Prayut said he is concerned that a new wave of infection may ruin the past efforts of health officials in keeping the country free of domestic transmission over the past four months.

“Anything that can be done to reduce the burden of [health] officials should be done,” Prayut said. “There’s still many things to endure. Officials can get tired.”

Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said health officials will be deployed at protest sites to hand out face masks and hand sanitizers. First aid stations will also be set up to take care of the protesters, he added.

“We want everyone to be safe and free of COVID-19,” Anutin said. “However, I’d like to ask protest organizers to announce that those who have fever, cough, sore throat, or runny nose should stay at their residences to prevent the disease from spreading.”

Civil rights activist Arnon Nampha said the protest organizers assured him that hygiene measures such as temperature screening points and hand sanitizer dispensers will be deployed at the rally site.