Thailand declares a State of Emergency, closes borders, tells senior citizens to stay home

The Thai government today declared a State of Emergency and enacted the 2005 Emergency Decree in an effort to combat the outbreak of COVID-19 in Thailand, closing the national borders and ordering high risk venues to remain closed. Meanwhile, senior citizens, children, and those with preexisting health conditions are told to stay home. 

The Emergency Decree will be in place from tomorrow (26 March) to 30 April. The first set of measures issued under the Decree instructed senior citizens aged over 70 and children under the age of 5 to stay home unless absolutely necessary, such as traveling to medical appointments, to buy food, travelling for banking activities or carrying out law enforcement orders. Those with pre-existing health conditions are also asked to stay indoors. 

The same set of measures, effective after midnight, also close Thai national borders and prohibit travel into the country through its land, sea, or air border checkpoints, with the exception of goods, transportation crews, members of diplomatic missions or other international organizations exempted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foreigners with work permits, Thai nationals with medical certificates and embassy certificates, and any other person exempted by the Prime Minister.

Venues with high risks of infection in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, including sport stadiums, gyms, and places of entertainment such as bars, nightclubs, theatres, spas, and massage parlours, which have been ordered closed by provincial governors last week, are to remain closed until further notice, while museums, public libraries, national parks, places of worship, markets, and supermarkets should consider partial closure or other measures to minimize transmission risk.

Shops providing essential goods and services, including banks, markets, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations, online deliveries, and takeaway restaurants, along with hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies may remain open.

The order also bans large gatherings and hoarding food, drinking water, and medical supplies, while commuting between provinces is not prohibited but discouraged. No curfews have been announced.

Violation of these measures may be punished by up to two months in prison under the 2005 Emergency Decree. Other offenses not already mentioned may also be punishable under other public health and safety laws.  

The statement also stated that news coverage that contains false information, information that may cause panic, or content that may affect national security may be censored or punished under the Emergency Decree or the Computer Crimes Act.

Measures under the Emergency Decree to address the COVID-19 outbreak must conform to international law, says ICJ

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) issued a statement yesterday (24 March), calling for the Thai government to exercise its power under the Emergency Decree in a “lawful and proportionate” manner that is consistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law. 

As of 25 March, Thailand has 934 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 70 of these cases have already been discharged from hospital, while 4 people have died.